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The Book of Henry review: Colin Trevorrow follows up Jurassic World with a dinosaur-free thriller starring Naomi Watts, Midnight Special’s Jaeden Lieberher, and Room’s Jacob Tremblay.

The Book of Henry review, by Kat Hughes, June 2017.

The Book of Henry review
The Book of Henry Review

The Book of Henry offers an interesting tale of childhood and darkness. Midnight Special‘s Jaeden Lieberher stars as the eponymous Henry, a young boy genius who is way older than his young years. Henry uses his intellect to entertain his younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay), as well as helping support his single mother Susan (Naomi Watts) with the family’s finance and legal paperwork. He’s also working on a special plan to help his next door neighbour Christina (Maddie Ziegler) whom is sadly the victim of abuse at the hands of her Step-father Glenn (Dean Norris).

The Book of Henry doesn’t deal with the cheeriest of subjects – bereavement, grief and child abuse, but they are really important issues that need addressing. Despite it’s whimsical, lighthearted opening third, The Book of Henry goes to some dark places later, tackling the aforementioned topics in a mature manner. Rated as a 12A, the film doesn’t go too in-depth into the really nasty areas – for example, the full extent of the abuse is never revealed, meaning that younger audience members won’t be traumatised, whilst the accompanying adult can decide based on their own comfort level.

The Book of Henry Review

Lieberher is fantastic as Henry, showing a great amount of maturity for someone so young. He’s especially good, given the tough subject matter that he has to deal with. He manages to project an air of authority which, given that he is the parent in his family, is a very necessary component of the role. Watts is also brilliant as always as his child-like mother; Susan passes her days working as a waitress, getting drunk with her gal pal Sheila (Sarah Silverman), and playing computer games. She’s quite content to let her young genius son run both the household, and her life. After a tragedy however, she realises that she must step-up and be the mother that Henry and Peter truly deserve. In order to do that she has to help Henry in his almost impossible rescue mission. Tremblay too is on his usual adorable top-form as the younger brother, forced suddenly to grow-up. If only all kids were as cute and charming as this guy. Silverman’s Sheila is unfortunately a weak-link as she is little more than a tragic, comedy side-kick, and is soon forgotten as the plot moves along. Similarly, Lee Pace’s doctor doesn’t get as much screen time as he needs in order to cement himself into things.

The Book of Henry Review

Reviews out of the US have not been kind to The Book of Henry, but having watched the film it’s a little hard to work out why they all hated it so much. Granted it’s an odd mixture of narrative styles, starting as a whimsical kid’s film, before moving into a hospital drama, eventually ending up as a thriller with murder plots abound. This cacophony of styles just reflects life, things aren’t always one way. Maybe they also took offence to how unhelpful the adult world and typical procedures are at helping Christina. Before embarking on his elaborate plan, Henry tries all the usual methods, but is belittled because of his age. Again, sadly this is just a stark reality of life. Or maybe they simply found the subject matter too distressing. Whatever the reason, seek The Book of Henry out for yourselves, it has a story to tell and it deserves to be heard by all, no matter how many of society’s inadequacies it shines a spotlight onto.

The Book of Henry Review

The Book of Henry is a powerful and bittersweet story that is in need of telling, far too many children are victims of abuse (in all forms); it’s important that audiences realise that this is a horrific reality for many. This is a movie that will resonate with anyone who didn’t have the picture-perfect childhood. Be warned though, it may spoil Dean Norris for you – he plays one heck of a bad guy here.

Heart-wrenching, provocative, powerful and oddly charming, The Book of Henry is by no means an easy watch, but is definitely a worthwhile investment.

The Book of Henry review, by Kat Hughes, June 2017.

The Book of Henry is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd June. 

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The Book of Henry