The Book of Henry

"OK"

The Book of Henry Review


Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years as filmmakers struggled to work out how to blend its inventive mismatch of genres. Enter Colin Trevorrow, who's first film Safety Not Included was a mix of comedy, drama and time-travel adventure. In between making blockbusters for the Jurassic and Star Wars franchises, Trevorrow invests this unconventional drama-cum-thriller with plenty of heart, eliciting terrific performances from his central cast. But it never feels very authentic.

The story centres on single mother Susan (Naomi Watts), whose complex life is managed by her genius 11-year-old son Henry (Jaeden Lieberher). Adorable younger brother Peter (Room's Jacob Tremblay) offers plenty of support, but it's Henry who keeps everything running and supports the family with his savvy investments. Then he begins to suspect that his classmate Christina (Maggie Ziegler), who lives next door, is being abused by her stepdad Glenn (Breaking Bad's Dean Norris). But Glenn is the police commissioner, so Henry knows that calling the cops is useless. Instead, he makes an elaborate plan and writes it down in his notebook so his mother can take action.

The film's first half is a fascinating drama about the delicate balance in this unusual family. Beautifully played with layers of resonance by Watts, Lieberher and Tremblay, these are people we would like to know a lot more about, and we settle in to discover their secrets. All three are excellent, continually surprising the audience with insightful character touches that make each person vivid and likeable, even with their flaws. And then the Hitchockian plot kicks in, the suspense gurgles over and everything begins to turn rather implausible. This is kind of the point of the story - that experience is perhaps more important than intelligence - but it's much more difficult to engage with.

The central idea is that Susan has never allowed herself to be a real mother to these boys, letting them make decisions based on Henry's intellect rather than her maturity. So it's essentially a very clever take on the coming-of-age tale. But Gregg Hurwitz's script takes so many difficult turns that these themes get lost. This leaves the film's final act feeling like a contrived mixture of pushy sentimentality and unconvincing violence. And it leaves us wishing that the screenplay had stuck with the original story, playing out the complex parent-child dynamic between Susan and her sons without resorting to big emotions and rather feeble action.

Watch the trailer and clips for The Book Of Henry:



Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Budget: $10M

Production compaines: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Double Nickel Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Producer: , Carla Hacken, Jenette Kahn,

Starring: as Susan Carpenter, Jaeden Lieberher as Henry Carpenter, Jacob Tremblay as Peter Carpenter, as Sheila, as David, Maddie Ziegler as Christina Sickleman, as Glenn Sickleman, as John, as Principal Wilder, Geraldine Hughes as Mrs. Evans, Jackson Nicoll as Morris, Joel Garland as Big Ed, as Gary, as Nurse Kathy, Maxwell Simkins as Tommy, Donnetta Lavinia Grays as Nurse Leah, Mary Joy as Dot, Faith Logan as Sibling, Lily Peterson as Stage Manager, Stefanie Flores as Girlfriend, Mike Massimino as Trucker, Deborah Rayne as EMT #1, Logan Smith as Boy #2

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic

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