DIR: Colin Trevorrow • WRI: Gregg Hurwitz PRO: Carla Hacken, Jenette Kahn, Sidney Kimmel, Adam Richman • DOP: John Schwartzman• ED: Kevin Stitt • DES: Kalina Ivanov • MUS: Michael Giacchino • CAST: Lee Pace, Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay
The Book of Henry is Colin Trevorrow’s latest directorial effort – after 2015’s Jurassic World – and is based upon a script by Gregg Hurwitz. Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a remarkably-intelligent eleven-year-old child whose advancements see him bestowed with the responsibility of maintaining his single mother Susan’s (Naomi Watts) finances and he is encouraged to jump several school grades by his teacher. Henry’s smarts affects his younger brother Peter’s (Jacob Tremblay) reputation in their school and Peter is bullied for his ‘normal’ intelligence. The family lives beside a young girl and her stepfather; and Henry notices differences in her behaviour and suspects she is a victim of child abuse. Henry attempts to contact social services to remove Christina (Maddie Ziegler) from her household, but his efforts are thwarted when Christina’s stepfather is a corrupt high-ranking member of the police force, and Henry must formulate another plan to end Christina’s suffering.
Writing a plot synopsis for The Book of Henry is challenging when there are major spoilers not included in the film’s trailer and are obviously important for the film’s own dramatic effect. However, this spoiler and plot event is hugely misjudged. This significant event is included as a plot device and is staggeringly tonally-wrong. Tears are shed by characters, and perhaps some cinemagoers, but these tears are baffling when you witness how the remainder of The Book of Henry plays out. It becomes a confusing cinematic experience and leaves you asking yourself “Did that really just happen?!”.
Said spoiler also permits Naomi Watts’ Susan more screen time; yet, her character’s own personal transformation and raison d’être is diminished in a sequence that could have featured in another Home Alone instalment. Watts delivers a believable performance as a single mother determined to raise her children despite previous hardship; although her maternal success and enthusiasm is wasted in her character’s involvement in the film’s final act. Jacob Tremblay, much like his scene-stealing turn in Room, is the strongest highlight within The Book of Henry. Tremblay’s acting ability is already stellar at his young age and his capability of negotiating certain emotions in this film is far more impressive than seasoned-performers within the ensemble cast.
The Book of Henry had promising elements within its opening act that were quickly dismantled once that event occurred. The film then free falls into a genre-bending mess where it does not know what film it wants to become. Its dominant flaw remains that it purposefully attempts to manipulate your emotional state and it utterly fails to involve you in caring about the remainder of the film’s plot.
12A (See IFCO for details)
The Book of Henry is released 23rd June 2017