The Book of Henry
A moving, if confusing, tale of a family of three who are forced to confront their fair share of tragedies.
Naomi Watts has had a varied career, scoring box office highs with the likes of The Impossible and 21 Grams - both of which earned her an Oscar nomination, but also falling foul of critics with Diana and Movie 43.
Her latest outing, The Book of Henry, unfortunately falls somewhere towards the Diana end, though there are some genuinely moving moments that save it from being a total flop.
Naomi plays single mum Susan Carpenter, who raises her two sons Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay) in an affluent suburban town.
Although she works as a waitress, it is the super smart oldest son Henry who acts as the family's primary breadwinner, successfully playing the stock market to make sure that they have plenty of money.
Living next door is police commissioner Glenn Sickleman (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris) and his stepdaughter Christina (Maddie Ziegler), who young Henry has a major crush on.
But the brainy 11-year-old soon realises all isn’t right with his neighbours, and that Christina is being abused at the hands of her only guardian.
From here on in, Henry makes it his mission to save Christina, though he faces a tough job when no one will listen to him.
So, he devises an elaborate plan, noting down the exact details in his trusty red notebook.
After tragedy strikes the family, it falls to Susan to put the plan into action - but is it time she stopped listening to her young son and started behaving like the parent?
The biggest problem with Colin Trevorrow’s feature is that it attempts to tell three vastly different stories in the space of 105 minutes.
It starts as a brotherly drama, before moving the focus to child molestation and family tragedy in the second act, and finally ending as a crime thriller. It also tries to mash a quirky indie comedy with a revenge thriller.
There is a reason movies tend to stick to one or two genres; it’s a formula that works. This mishmash, on the other hand, does not.
There are some good moments in the movie, especially the middle section, which really pulls at the heart strings. But the redeeming scenes are lost in this wholly unbelievable tale.
Rising star Tremblay, who became a sensation after 2015’s Room, is again in great form, as is Lieberher, who plays precocious Henry perfectly.
Watts does OK as the childlike matriarch, and Sarah Silverman is likeable as her best friend and colleague Sheila. However, Ziegler is underused and Norris doesn’t get enough screen time to feel truly menacing.
The cinematography is impressive, with the opening sequence of pencil drawings a particular highlight.
It’s just a shame that it’s trying to be so many things when really The Book of Henry should have been much simpler, and much more enjoyable.
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