Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Book of Henry


Jaeden Lieberher has built an impressive resume for his 14 years. When I think of him, the movies St. Vincent, Confirmation and Midnight Special come to mind and of course he is currently starring as the sad, earnest Bill in Stephen King's IT. In St. Vincent he really excelled at playing as a wiser than his years child who has to act as a guide for the flawed adult characters. The same idea plays out here to the nth degree. The title character of Henry is a child genius with a powerful intellect that allows him to see all of the possible scenarios that life may bring. To cope with the benefits and downside of such insights, Henry plots out plans for every outcome in the other half of the title - his book.

Henry's domestic situation, being raised with his younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay) by single mom Susan (Naomi Watts) is portrayed as quite idyllic and almost whimsical. You may notice though that Susan is just one of the kids too. She has handed over most of the "adulting" to Henry and honestly who wouldn't. She plays video games while Henry plans out the family's financial future and hangs with a work buddy (Sara Silverman) while Henry entertains his little brother in ways that only a true child genius could come up with. Now movies need conflict and here we are served up some dark fare. In his precise observation of the world Henry has discovered that his next door neighbor (also a single parent) is abusing his daughter Christina (Maddie Ziegler). He has tried to alert adults who are either clueless or intimidated by Christina's father who is (wait for it) the chief of police. In his book, Henry has detailed all the actions he could take and how they may or may not work and has come to a grim conclusion. 

At this point, I reach a difficult part of this review. I don't want to spoil anything so forgive the vagueness. The Book of Henry takes two unexpected turns. The first will cause confusion and make you distrust people who make movies trailers. The second can only be described as tectonic in that it shakes up everything.  How you react to these twists will probably determine your final thoughts on the movie. Will Susan continue to put so much trust in Henry's mind or will she step back and become the parent? The end is a bit too much of a pretty package for me but overall I was glad I stuck with it to see what would happen. 


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