Henry Poole is done with life. Dealt one blow too many, he lives in solitude, drowning his sorrows in vodka and Krispy Kremes, waiting for death to come. But the caring characters around him—with names like Hope and Dawn and Patience—keep crashing his pity party. So does a stain on his house, a stain that looks a lot like the face of Jesus.

That's the storyline in Henry Poole Is Here, a sweet, quirky and uplifting film opening this week.

That's also, in some ways, the storyline for director Mark Pellington, who suddenly lost his wife four years ago to complications from a ruptured spleen. Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies and music videos for Bruce Springsteen, U2, Pearl Jam, and more) was 42 at the time—and left alone with a 2½-year-old daughter, Isabella. There were days when Pellington wanted to end it all, but Isabella and others who loved him gave him the hope to carry on.

Today, Pellington describes himself as "a changed man." He'll never get over losing his wife at such a young age (she was 42), but says he's graduated from darkness into light—and he wants that to show in his filmmaking. Thus he's doing more positive—and "less nihilistic," he says—music videos and movies, particularly U23D (which he co-directed) and now Henry Poole, based on a script by Albert Torres and starring Luke Wilson. The film, made in 30 days for a modest $7 million, "is a small movie with big ambitions thematically," says Pellington.

We recently chatted with the director about Henry Poole and his own rocky journey.

The film includes themes of hope and redemption in the wake of despair and depression. That's almost your life story, isn't it?

Mark Pellington: I read the script before my wife passed away, ...

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