Fool is a drifter who settles in Henry’s basement and proceeds to encourage him to write, claiming to have written his magnum opus. In his own words…
It’s a philosophy. A poetics. A politics, if you will. A literature of protest. A novel of ideas. A pornographic magazine of truly comic book proportions. It is, in the end, whatever the hell I want it to be. And when I’m through with it it’s going to blow a hole this wide straight through the world’s own idea of itself.
Henry encourages Simon to put down his feelings into words. The result of Grim’s outpourings is a poetic masterpiece which has profound effects on all who read it. After several verses are posted on the internet it inspires the sort of fandom usually reserved for sexually non-threatening boy bands . Publishers who previously rejected the verse are now clamoring to publish. Fool meanwhile, for all his magnetic personality begins a period of descent in his life.
The film is a kind of poetic Whilnail and I. Henry is a Withnail character, intoxicated by his own self belief and supposed brilliance, while Grimm is the Marwood figure, quieter, less prone to trouble, and perhaps not more talented (as we never get to hear any of their work we will never know) but definitely more marketable.
Harltey’s characters don’t have the sort of arc that can be found in more mainstream film making. Traditionally our hero’s and heroines should develop and learn, they should end up “better” people. Better meaning whatever is most appealing and least offensive to mainstream society. Hartley’s characters don’t change, it is their circumstances and the world around them that changes – rather like real life?
Henry’s Fool is incredibly layered. It speaks about art, personality, commercialism, the public and private. It is fantastical, yet at the same time routed in reality. It is very funny. So is Henry Fool about poetry – no, but cinematically it’s close.