Directed by Colin Trevorrow and starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman and Dean Norris, “The Book of Henry” is an offbeat, amusing, indie drama that combines multiple genres and a rollercoaster of emotions to create a well crafted and all around bizarre film.
Susan Carpenter (Watts) is an immature single mother attempting to raise her two kids, Henry (Lieberher) and Peter (Tremblay). Though Susan gets drunk, plays video games and acts less than an adult at times, her 11-year-old son Henry is basically a genius, handles the accounting and holds the family together.
Henry has a crush on his neighbor, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), and observes that her stepfather (Norris) is mistreating her and carefully comes up with a plan to help. After finding Henry’s detailed notebook and instructions on how to stop the stepfather, who happens to be the police commissioner, Susan vows to help execute the mission.
Trevorrow has directed the indie romantic comedy, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” as well as large blockbusters such as “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: Episode IX,” and he once again provides a quality film in “The Book of Henry.” The film has touches of a family-kids drama, mysterious crime thriller, and a comedy about age and responsibility that can be a bit dark and different at times.
The cast of this film is outstanding with Watts as the primary female protagonist, who plays the role of a childish single parent quite well. Lieberher (“Midnight Special," “St. Vincent”) and Tremblay (“Room”) are adorable and phenomenal actors, showing their range of acting/emotion and quite a bit of witty humor. Silverman provides some comic relief, and Norris does an adequate job, while Ziegler, Lee Pace and Bobby Moynihan round out the supporting cast.
Despite being well executed, the plot may be too implausible for some viewers. There are also several tearjerker moments of sentiment and emotional ups and downs that will be heartbreaking to some. While it does get a bit over-the-top in more ways than one, the story, dialogue and cast appear to be the strengths of this film. It’s smart, funny, thrilling, and sad, all rolled into one.
“The Book of Henry” may be one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s unlike just about anything else out there right now, and aside from large budget Hollywood films and superhero movies, there haven’t been many well-rounded, quality features so far. This film reminds me of a mix between an offbeat comedy like “St. Vincent” (also Watts and Lieberher) and “Disturbia” or a similar spy-on-your-suspicious-neighbor type movie with a bit of emotional drama thrown in.
If this film sounds like something that would interest you, I highly recommend checking it out after it releases this Friday.
4 out of 5 stars.
“The Book of Henry” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.