Last night before bed I watched a movie that I’ve been postponing ever since it came out – not intentionally, though. In the sea of new movies I wanted to watch, The Book of Henry never really made it. So last night I thought I’d give it a chance, especially after watching the Naomi Watts-Jacob Tremblay duo in Shut In last year (which I didn’t get to review) where they both did an excellent job.
The Book of Henry tells the story of a a genius boy named Henry who, throughout his short life, crafts a notebook where he carefully describes a plan how to save his friend Christina from her abusive stepfather. When Henry dies from a brain tumor, his best friend and little brother Peter gives their mom Henry’s secret notebook. Now the mom’s mission is to stop her next-door neighbor from abusing Christina, following Henry’s guide step by step.
I must say that I was pretty surprised while I was watching this movie because, based on the name and the official movie poster, I thought The Book of Henry would be a colorful movie. However, it turned out to be dealing with some of the toughest issues of life – death, abuse, and apathy. Apart from the bad rating on IMDb (6.5) and its cast, I had no prior knowledge about The Book of Henry, which is why I spent half of the movie gasping in surprise – it had so many twists that the audience doesn’t see coming, the first one being the sudden death of the main character. Furthermore, this drama manages to include us in the movie as it appeals very much to our feelings, especially post Henry’s death where both the mom and Henry’s brother deal with the aftermath. Both Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay do a fantastic job portraying their characters’ feelings in a way that we are left with a little heartbreaking feeling every time they do a scene that involves Henry’s death. Contrary to Wonder, Jacob Tremblay is not the lead in The Book of Henry and the focus is mainly on Jaeden Lieberher as Henry, and wow, does the future seem bright for Hollywood if these kids are the future of acting! As for Naomi, she does a good job as a grieving mother but I can’t help but compare her character to the one she portrayed in Shut In. The acting is similar and she grieves in both movies, so I guess I was missing something different from her given that she is an A-lister with a huge A.
The funny thing about The Book of Henry is that, in the middle of watching it, I was wondering what genre I was witnessing. I don’t know if it’s because I have this weird horror movie obsession, but I couldn’t help but spot elements from that genre at various points, and at other points, it was pure James Bond kind of action. It creates a lot of suspension in various ways and at various points, which I’m personally very fond of, as it gives the movie a certain quality. The Book of Henry is a special movie but it has its flaws. We are not introduced to the background of the characters, which would’ve been interesting because the foundation is really missing. The characters would be easier to read and understand if we knew their past and background. Maybe that’s why some characters seem unnecessary – I can’t see a meaning with Sarah Silverman’s character because we are not told much about her. Overall, I think the movie is okay and it most certainly doesn’t deserve the bashing it’s been getting. It has its flaws and many things could’ve been done better, but the acting and the length are perfect, and the story itself is solid. I will give The Book of Henry 3 out of 5 and recommend it if you want a dark half morbid story that will shake you.