The Book of Henry
Child-actors are becoming rare in modern times, mostly due to stricter union rules, but also because of the awareness of how fame ruins childhoods. However, we’ve had a recent batch of great young actors, the two most prominent of which have been paired up together: Jaden Lieberher (St. Vincent, Midnight Special) and Jacob Tremblay (Room).
The Book of Henry is the story of a gifted child named Henry (Jaden Lieberher) and his “normal” brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay). They both live with their mother Susan (Naomi Watts) and have a happy life; Henry takes care of the adult aspects of the family, while Susan tries to inject the fun. However, one day Henry sees that his school crush and neighbor, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), is being abused by her stepfather and police commissioner, Glenn (Dean Norris).
The film is the follow up from director Colin Trevorrow to his mega-hit Jurassic World and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the dinosaur film, it did have its good moments. In The Book of Henry, however, Trevorrow has lost my confidence. The film is a patched quilt of 18 different movies. The screenplay seems to be like the same set of characters written into completely different situations: a family comedy, a cancer drama, a romance, and a mystery thriller just to name a few. And then there was the ending, which came out of nowhere and was extremely anticlimactic; it seemed like the script had been unfinished and a random executive scribbled an ending. While Trevorrow had a lost cause with the script, he still could have made use of some moments of tension or emotional scenes, but he abandons his actors completely.
But thankfully we have a very strong cast with the likes of Watts holding her ground like only an experienced actress like her can do; and both Lieberher and Tremblay give even more hope to those of us betting on their future careers. Tremblay especially was very apt at pulling tears from the audience.
The cast makes the story digestible, but the patchy script and hazy directing make this a forgettable and very frustrating film.