Sometimes things are not always what they seem, especially in the small suburban town where the Carpenter family lives. Single suburban mother Susan Carpenter works as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty family friend Sheila. Her younger son Peter is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything in his own unique way is Susan’s older son Henry, age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother – and, through investments, of the family as a whole – Henry blazes through the days like a comet. Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina, has a dangerous secret – and that Henry has devised a surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape in thrilling ways, Susan finds herself at the center of it.
What We Thought:
I totally dug The Book of Henry. The movie is pretty much a hot mess, but I liked it. The plot/story is all over the map and the trailers (at least what I saw) give away nothing in terms of the big twist in the middle.
Others who saw it with me didn’t like it, but that means nothing to me. What’s funny is some people said they liked Colossal because it’s different which doesn’t necessarily make it good. This film is totally different from anything out there yet the people hating on it, all banded together to hate on it. But I digress.
To discuss the plot of the film would give away a huge spoiler which I knew nothing about. I’ll just say that Naomi Watts has two sons, Henry and Peter and Henry is a genius. He takes care of all the finances and makes money for the family even though Watts’ character does waitress. He realizes his neighbor (and classmate) is being abused by her stepfather who is a cop. He makes a plan to stop him. That’s all I’ll give you, you don’t need to know more.
That sounds pretty basic, but trust me, this movie is not. After a huge twist the film feels like a totally different movie. It starts out almost like a 1980s kids movie. It feels Super 8-ish, a throwback to kids being kids. Henry makes Rube Goldberg machines to do the most simple of tasks. His younger brother loves them. They ride bikes and use walkie talkies. Henry is clearly ahead of everyone else at school and his own mother. Then there’s the surprise and it goes off the rails and is no longer a kids throwback.
What I liked about the film (besides it being “different”) were the performances of the two young actors. Jacob Tremblay is probably the biggest named young acting going because of Room. He’s good in this and has some great scenes with Naomi Watts. But it’s Jaeden Lieberher as Henry that amazed me. The kid is just fantastic. I loved him in St. Vincent. I loved him in Midnight Special and I loved him in this. He dominates every scene he’s in whether it’s with actors his own age or opposite Watts, Lee Pace or Sarah Silverman. Others thought he was wooden or odd, but that’s the point. His character is so much different from those around him, he should come off as off or standoffish. He’s not quite Rain Man, but his mental ability is so far ahead of others, he should have a difficult time coming across as normal. And Lieberher does it perfectly.
Yes The Book of Henry jumps around a lot. It changes tone and feels like different movies at times, but that’s why I liked it. It’s sort of a mess and the third act is like nothing else in the film, but Lieberher was amazing to me and it’s worth seeing for him and Tremblay.
Cast & Crew:
- Naomi Watts
- Jacob Tremblay
- Jaeden Lieberher
- Maddie Ziegler
- Sarah Silverman
- Lee Pace
- Dean Norris