Before you consider going to see The Book of Henry, you need to be sure that your heart can take the next hour and 45 minutes of emotional rollercoaster you are about to embark upon. The trailer shows only a bit of what is in store, and the heartaches and joy to come are so very worth the foray into the theater.
The movie begins by painting a happy family picture of the Carpenter family. Mother Susan (Naomi Watts), the oldest son, Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), and younger son, Peter (Jacob Tremblay). From the beginning, we are shown that Henry is a genius. He has extensive knowledge far beyond his age, builds complicated Rube Goldberg machines, has his family set financially through his command of the stock market, and is, by all appearances, a well-balanced young man with a bright future. His younger brother gets picked on at school though, yet Henry, liked by all, is able to defend his younger brother. Mom works, though she knows she doesn’t have to and is more of a kid than Henry is. Susan’s best buddy, Sheila (Sarah Silverman) are divorcees who drink and carry on as though they haven’t any real cares in the world. Sheila is Henry’s foil, treating him as more grown up and mature than he really is, and giving him a hard time about always being so serious.
The set up for the second act comes from the bullying of Peter and is built upon in the community. Henry and his mother see a domestic disturbance at their local grocery store, where Susan advises they mind their own business. Henry feels morally obligated that someone should do something if they see someone who needs help. The tension builds as Henry discovers that Christina (Maddie Ziegler), the girl next door, is being abused by her step-father, Glen Sickleman (Lee Pace), the police Commissioner.
We are taken from the bright joy and happiness of the beginning of the film and the tension builds as Henry tries to get Glen investigated for the abuse. However, Glen’s position holds him above that type of scrutiny, especially since he has connections in so many aspects of civil systems. As it appears that nothing can be done legally, Henry begins to devise a plan to put an end to the abuse, and to Glen, but Henry can’t do it alone and convinces his mother to help.
The buildup to the climax of the film is tense, harrowing and well choreographed, with a tap dance performance at the school talent show providing a mounting staccato of sound that drives the action towards its zenith, and then leaves that emotional roller coaster, poised at the apex of the climb, about to descend into the mad rush of the resolution of Henry’s plan. Agonizing moments keep the viewer on edge before that plunge, and the breathless collection of one’s wits at the end of the ride.
The Book of Henry has some of the best performances that I have seen from child actors, and the story hits every emotion that one can name. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of this film but also exhilarated by what I had experienced. I can confidently say that this is the best movie that I have seen this year, and I enthusiastically recommend that you go see it.
The Book of Henry:
About The Book of Henry
Synopsis: A single mother discovers a scheme in her son’s book to rescue a young girl from the hands of her abusive stepfather and sets out to execute the plan at any cost.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Stars: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Maddie Ziegler, Lee Pace, and Sarah Silverman
Runtime: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes