Someone invite debut screenwriter Albert Torres over for Bible study. The scribe’s got a lot to say about faith and spirituality and isn’t shy about forcing it down the throat of anyone who’s ever looked out their peephole at Jehovah’s Witnesses and not opened the door. For those atheists out there, consider this the comedy of the year.
The divine intervention begins when Henry Poole (Wilson), who six weeks prior is diagnosed with a terminal disease, moves back to the neighborhood he grew up in to wait out his final days alone, crying in his vodka tonics. But when Esperanza (Oscar-nominee Barraza of Babel), a pious neighbor, swears to see the face of Christ on the side of Henry’s new home, no one can stop her from anticipating miracles, especially after the water-stain image begins to shed tears of blood and “cure” believers. Next door, Dawn (Mitchell) and Millie (Morgan Lily), a sorrowful mother-daughter duo dealing with abandonment issues, keep Henry company as Esperanza (Spanish for hope) maddeningly leads tours of God-fearing folk through his backyard.
Although the performances make the film tolerable (Barraza is genuine, and Wilson, when he’s not sulking, is convincing), knowing who Henry Poole actually is by the time the preaching ceases is impossible. Instead of smoothing out his rough edges and giving a more meaningful insight to his life before his sickness, Torres and director Pellington drown out the narrative with cliché musings and an overbearingly uplifting soundtrack. The tracks are built around a theme song written by MySpace songwriting contest winner Ron Irizarry, whose lyrics are better fitted for pulpit speeches from Joel Osteen. Sure, Torres and Pellington might have left some room for religious interpretation, but not before slapping some mud in Henry’s hands and writing him into a West Coast version of Jerusalem.