The Book of Henry (2017) Review

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Summary:With instructions from her genius son’s carefully crafted notebook, a single mother sets out to rescue a young girl from the hands of her abusive stepfather.
Pros:
Cast and Characters.
  • Jaeden Lieberher as Henry Carpenter. He is an 11-year-old genius who takes care of his mom and younger brother. Henry protects his brother from bullies, he tells his mom not swear in front of Peter, he takes care of her finances where she literally does not have to worry about money ever, he often tells her to quit her diner job so she can focus on her children’s books. Henry is a very put together kid. He does seem like an adult, but honestly, he’s much more adult than most of the adults in this movie. Jaeden Lieberher is fine in his role, he plays that stoic kid very well, it’s easy to tell that he’s close with his family and that he might have a little crush on the girl next door. I think Jaeden manages to make this role feel like a smart kid whose position in his family was one that just happened instead of it being given to him. He doesn’t make it seem like a burden which it could have been. I think that was some good choices by Jaeden.
  • Jacob Tremblay as Peter Carpenter. I don’t know how many times I have to say it but I looooove this kid. He probably got the only sad emotion out of me, to the point where I wanted to cry (I didn’t) and it was towards the end. It wasn’t really a sad scene but seeing him throughout the movie, I felt that. He’s the youngest son, and he’s not as smart as Henry but there is some kind of adult in him as well. He looks up to Henry and I think he might feel a bit overshadowed by him because Henry’s so smart but he doesn’t resent him for it, nor does he really seem to let it bother him much. Jacob Tremblay isn’t the lead kid, but he definitely has a presence whenever he’s on screen. His character is very somber most of the time and it was very organic instead of a kid trying to be this way.
  • Naomi Watts as Susan Carpenter. So Susan is the mother, but her kids take care of her more than it seems she takes care of them, but it’s their system. She’s not a bad mom, she just doesn’t have to worry about things because Henry’s got it. Susan plays video games, while Henry is doing her taxes, it’s very interesting but she does still hold the “I’m still the mom and the adult” card because she does make decisions that show she still is capable of doing so. Naomi Watts is fine, I think any actress could have played this part but I do think the chemistry she had with both Jacob and Jaeden really helped their family dynamic.
Supporting Characters.
  • Dean Norris as Glenn Sickleman. The next door neighbor and the suspected abuser. We don’t see a ton of him, usually when we see him he’s raking the leaves or we see him through the window. He seems like a well mannered man, quiet, and he’s the police commissioner. Glenn is very unassuming, as he often asks Susan to rake up her leaves because they blow to his yard. Dean Norris is fine here as well, his character doesn’t have much to do so he doesn’t have to act much outside of his “mild mannered” persona.
  • Maddie Ziegler as Christina Sickleman. This is the first time I’ve seen Maddie act, otherwise I mostly see he in Sia’s music videos dancing and she can definitely dance, she has a dancing scene which is great in the movie. She is Glenn’s stepdaughter. She’s quiet and withdrawn and we don’t see much of her either other than when the Carpenter family is looking in on her. She seems to have a good relationship with the whole family, as she talks to Peter and Henry, has a handshake with Susan. She’s a sweet girl. Maddie Ziegler doesn’t have much to do either, she mostly looks sad and withdrawn but she does it very well.
  • Sarah Silverman and Lee Pace are also in this movie. They’re both good in their roles as well.
The Family Aspect. I liked what the movie was trying to do. I think it’s based off an old book, or something, but I think the idea of this smart kid running his mother’s life and the fact that she lets him because he’s so smart, is very interesting. I think what ends up happening at the end was also interesting considering what she’s used to, but that aspect of it, the family thing I thought was much more interesting than the abusive next door neighbor. Mostly because it’s been done a lot, similar to Disturbia and other films where someone is watching the creepy, or weird neighbor next door. I liked that Henry did his mother’s bills, that he took care of her financial stuff, that he protects his brother, and his mother and even Peter, who is still a kid as well, also acts a bit grown up. It was an interesting dynamic that I would have preferred to see more of.
The Tension. While I think the second half of the movie is a bit of a mess, I have to say there was tension in those last few scenes. I was actually glued to my screen, very interested to see what Susan would choose to do. The whole scene in the woods, my eyes were huge and I was hoping that things turned out right. There isn’t much buildup anywhere but that scene was great.
Cons:
The Second Half. So the movie decides to follow the abusive neighbor plot line which I don’t think it needed to. It sounds horrible but considering what the first half was building up, I don’t think it should have mainly focused on that the second half. It felt like two different movies and it was disjointed and random. The transitions were a bit weird and I remember going… “oh, so this is where we’re going then…” okay. I wasn’t really expecting it because there was no build up to it. Outside of the talent show scene and the scene in the treehouse with Susan, the second half was nowhere near as good or interesting as the first half.
The Adult Characters. I don’t know what was up with all of the adults but they are all idiots. Henry even calls the principal out for not saying anything about the obvious abuse Christina had to deal with and I forgot the stupid excuse she gave, something about Glenn being the police commissioner but wouldn’t she have some sort of pull anyway with the district? So I thought she was terrible for her excuse. Glenn knows people due to his role and he’s able to handle any problems that might come his way about the abuse and ugh, I can’t believe these people would really go along with this nonsense. It’s terrible! Also, why does no one ever follow up with anything. If a person walks into your store and starts talking about someone they know who owns the place, I’m sorry, if it’s an illegal thing, I’m going to verify. I’d rather my boss yell at me for disturbing them than make a bad call. *rolls eyes*
No Stakes/No Build. So like I mentioned before, the second half has a point it’s trying to reach but I don’t think there was enough buildup, nor did I feel like there was going to really be any consequences or solutions at least in the moment. Outside of that one scene in the woods, I didn’t think there was going to be much to come from it since the movie didn’t make me feel like that.
Overall, I don’t think The Book of Henry is as bad as it was getting before from critics. I did see that while critics didn’t like it, the audience did. I guess I’m in the middle. Just like the film. It’s kind of so-so and it’s kind of unfortunate. I thought the acting was fine, the characters were fine so the actors did what they could. The two kid leads were great in their roles. I do think there is a tiny bit of tension but mostly in that one scene and I thought the family dynamic was interesting and I wish the film would have focused on that more. Now for the bad, I think there weren’t any stakes or any true buildup to what happened in the second half, not to mention the second half of the film takes a random turn and it was very out of place. Plus, a lot of the adult side characters were idiots. But honestly The Book of Henry is okay. It’s not consistently good or interesting but it’s okay.
Rating: 2.29 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen The Book of Henry? Have you even heard of it? lol if you have seen it, let me know your thoughts below, I would love to hear some readers thoughts on this film if you’ve seen it.
What’s your favorite “my neighbor is kind of weird, so now I’m going to watch them through my window” film?
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