‘Old Henry’ Review: When Past Becomes Present

Joe Morgenstern

September 30, 2021

‘Old Henry” is intentionally at odds with itself, and intriguingly so. Potsy Ponciroli’s genre western with a twist spends lots of time portraying its title character as someone the world forgot, or never had any reason to remember. A taciturn farmer played by Tim Blake Nelson with an economy that could be mistaken for opacity, Henry lives in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906, works grindingly hard on his plot of land and, as a single parent whose wife died a decade ago, preaches a rigid doctrine of right and wrong to his son, Wyatt (Gavin Lewis), an earnest young man yearning for adventure. At the same time the film keeps hinting that Henry is not who he seems, a game that doesn’t begin in earnest until a classic image of a riderless horse appears on the rim of a hill overlooking Henry’s homestead.

‘Old Henry” is intentionally at odds with itself, and intriguingly so. Potsy Ponciroli’s genre western with a twist spends lots of time portraying its title character as someone the world forgot, or never had any reason to remember. A taciturn farmer played by Tim Blake Nelson with an economy that could be mistaken for opacity, Henry lives in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906, works grindingly hard on his plot of land and, as a single parent whose wife died a decade ago, preaches a rigid doctrine of right and wrong to his son, Wyatt (Gavin Lewis), an earnest young man yearning for adventure. At the same time the film keeps hinting that Henry is not who he seems, a game that doesn’t begin in earnest until a classic image of a riderless horse appears on the rim of a hill overlooking Henry’s homestead.