Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Lee Pace, Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay, Dean Norris, Maddie Ziegler, Sarah Silverman
Running Time: 105 mins
Release Date: 23/06/2017
The underbelly of American suburbia is the heartland of cinematic conflict, with much potential for psychological analysis and assessment. At its best, it can provide some memorably profound and enlightening moments of cinema. AMERICAN BEAUTY’s mantra of LOOK-ing CLOSER at the world lay the foundation for a classic assessment of dysfunction that could be both hilarious and darkly honest.
Colin Trevorrow‘s latest film THE BOOK OF HENRY encapsulates the resonance of Sam Mendes’ drama and cross-pollinates the story with a dash of mystery and detective genres. Naomi Watts plays Susan Carpenter, a single-mother and waitress bringing up her two sons, Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay).
Henry is an incredibly gifted and intelligent boy with a talent for quirky inventions in the oddball tree-house in the family garden. Henry has a bond with the next-door neighbour’s step-daughter and school-friend Christina (Maddie Ziegler), whilst Susan seems to contend herself after work with computer games and wants Henry to goof around more rather than focus on intellectual pursuits. Susan’s friend and fellow co-worker Sheila (Sarah Silverman) is another who is struggling to get by, but whom finds solace in their friendship and bond.
However, Henry senses that there is something darker going on in Christina’s home with allegations of child abuse and refers the matter to a cynical and disbelieving school counsellor, who refuses to take action, leaving Henry to take matters into his own hands. However, Henry has been documenting all sorts of observations in a journal, the book of the title, which will soon provide the key amidst imminent tragedy….
Like other insightful coming-of-age dramas, the strength of THE BOOK OF HENRY can be credited to the three central performances of the children. The chemistry is winning on all fronts from a core group of talents who are destined to achieve bigger things in the future. Tremblay fulfils the promise he showed opposite Brie Larson in ROOM and Lieberher and Ziegler have made a very promising contribution to the film. Watts evokes the resonance here that she did with 21 GRAMS as a mother torn between her own desire to find love and the love she has for her children.
THE BOOK OF HENRY, however, is a movie you should enjoy in the moment and allow it to enchant you with what its objectives are. You may in hindsight find things to criticize or fault, but its mix of comedy and drama is sensitively executed and you will fall in love with the young cast as much as Susan does.