The Book of Henry 2017
PG-13 | 1h 45min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 23 June 2017 (USA)
Sometimes things are not always what they seem, especially in the small suburban town where the Carpenter family lives. Single suburban mother Susan Carpenter works as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty family friend Sheila. Her younger son Peter is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything in his own unique way is Susan’s older son Henry, age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother – and, through investments, of the family as a whole – Henry blazes through the days like a comet. Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina, has a dangerous secret – and that Henry has devised a surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape in thrilling ways, Susan finds herself at the center of it.
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
It’s a rare occurrence in which I heavily disagree with critical responses to films. I had no idea what The Book of Henry was about. I hadn’t watched a trailer and I hadn’t read the IMDb synopsis. Save for watching a web critic’s review (which was stunningly brief in plot description), I knew nothing going into this except that it was directed by Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow, the man at the helm of 2019’s Star Wars Episode IX. If I had seen the overwhelmingly negative reviews for this film prior to trekking down to the cinema to see it, I probably would have skipped out. Then again, it was either this or Transformers: The Last Knight, and I know well enough by now not to see a film with Michael Bay’s name attached to it. But, here we are, I’ve seen The Book of Henry, and I really like it, disagreeing with the negative critical reception it has received.
It’s difficult to dive too much into the plot of the film. That’s not because it’s hard to follow, but it fares better the less you know about it. Henry (Lieberher) is a kid genius. Inventive and constantly thinking, Henry is the man of the house. He looks out for his little brother Peter (Tremblay) at school and even provides guidance for his video game playing, picture book creating mother Susan (Watts), and going as far to even take charge of their financing. When he suspects that his next door neighbor and fellow classmate is being psychically abused by her stepfather, he takes it into his own hands to save her. And that’s all I’m going to say, because the less you know the better.
I’m quite surprised by how many critics have trashed this. Naomi Watts is on top form here and carries the emotional weight of the film, and Jacob Tremblay (of last year’s excellent Room) is again fantastic albeit playing a smaller role. Lieberher completely sells it as Henry and is likable as the title character. Michael Giacchino (composer of films like Inside Out and Rogue One) creates a beautiful score that fits the film perfectly, and Trevorrow’s direction keeps the film afloat despite a few screenplay misfires. For the most part, the script works despite its somewhat unconventional narrative, but I found it continuously unpredictable and responded heavily to the performances, especially Watts. There are a few small misfires but on the whole, it works in its own peculiar way, and the film is beautifully shot.
Whilst The Book of Henry is certainly not for everyone, it had me from the get go. I was at first concerned with Trevorrow being the director for Star Wars Episode IX, but now I’m intrigued to see where he takes it. I’m grateful not to have known anything about this film before letting myself become absorbed by it, and I thought about it for a long while afterwards. On this rare occasion, ignore the bad buzz and give it a go.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Stars: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay
Release Date: 23 June 2017 (USA)
Also Known As: Henry’nin Kitabi
Filming Locations: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA