Summary: A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student.
Cast and Characters. We have a few people we get to meet throughout the film, some who are around more than others but I’m only going to talk about those who this movie is really focused on.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Luce Edgar. He is our lead character, he was adopted by Watts and Roth after being rescued from a foreign country. He is the shining star of his high school, he plays sports, he gives the speeches, the other students look up to him… all around perfect kid. However, we see around this perfect persona as suspicious things happen that he seems to be involved with, but it seems like he’s not. Luce’s character has a lot of things he goes through and you’re never sure if what he’s saying or doing is true. It’s up for your interpretation. But this is the second time I’ve seen this young actor and I’m really intrigued by him, I thought he was fantastic, and I’m very much interested in his future.
Octavia Spencer as Harriet Wilson. I think she is always good no matter what she does, but she is the History teacher and it seems that she puts students into a box that suits her narrative. But she also seems to be someone who has her students interests at heart. She is very ambiguous just like Luce is, so it really depends on how you feel and what you think. I found myself on her side a lot of the movie but at the same time you doubt her too. But Octavia Spencer is amazing and when she has the scene with Luce, his parents and the principal she does so well! OMG! It’s so amazing. Not to mention the scene with Luce in her house. She’s fantastic.
Naomi Watts as Amy Edgar. I mean, she’s Luce’s mother so she’s automatically on Luce’s side even though there are plenty of times where she doubts him, but she goes through this movie going back and forth between being loyal to her child and being a good person lol. She really goes back and forth, and you can’t help but wonder just what you would do in her place. Naomi Watts is very sympathetic though and I understand her struggle but of course being on the outside, I was very frustrated with her lol.
Tim Roth as Peter Edgar. So, he’s not as prominent as Watts’ character but he’s just as important. Being that he’s the father, there is a slightly difference approach he has to Luce compared to Amy. He’s a bit more straight forward and less worried to make Luce feel any kind of way. He even flats out just as Luce questions whenever there’s a question he has. I held out for him to be the voice of reason throughout the movie but it’s up to the viewer to decide where he might stand in his last scene. Tim Roth is great, but I can’t say I’m aware of his acting talent from other movies outside of The Incredible Hulk lol, but I liked him a lot and I was expecting him to be the opposite of the mother by being less “sympathetic” to Luce’s nonsense.
Intense Scenes. Ya’ll this movie is intense, the tension in the room between the characters and the dialogue creates such intense moments that I rewound a few scenes just to hear the dialogue again or to see the acting again. There are two that really stood out to me. The scene in the school with Luce, his parents, the principal and Ms. Wilson where she’s basically trying to get everyone to understand what Luce has said and done to her, while he’s feigning innocence is such a great scene. Everyone did such a great job and according to the director commentary that was the first scene they filmed. Excellent. Later, there is a scene with Luce and Ms. Wilson in her house and that was THE BEST SCENE in the movie. I rewound that part because I just could not lol. It was so good. There is also a scene with Ms. Wilson and her sister Rose in the school, my eyes were wide the entire time. There are a few more of these in the film, very hard hitting with great dialogue and fantastic acting.
Ambiguous Narrative. Sometimes it’s super annoying when movies aren’t clear in anything that’s going on, but I think this movie does it so well that I was so into it. You’re not sure what to really believe and I think even if you do decide whose side you want to be on, if you watch it again, you might find yourself thinking about the other person’s ideals even more. I didn’t watch it twice, but I went back and forth a lot. So, while I agree with Ms. Wilson for the most part, I also found myself understanding the hill Luce was climbing about her.
Interesting Story. So, this feeds right into the one above it, but the story is straight forward. It’s basically Luce vs. Ms. Wilson but there are things that happen that are questionable on both characters’ parts. Is Luce hiding terrible information and tormenting this teacher? Is this teacher trying to use her power to tear some students down while lifting others up? Even though she says something about that, it doesn’t seem like her intention is to ruin anyone’s life… I don’t know it’s just so interesting and I think left to the interpretation of the viewer, at least to understand what her actual intentions are. Plus, you have Amy and Peter as Luce’s parents who want the best for him, they think he’s perfect and they go back and forth on believing their son and by the end, their choices are understandable but a little shocking.
Frustrating/ Ending. For the movie to build up how it did, with all the details we were given and then for it to just end. I get the point as it mirrors the opening but it’s different this time, the meaning behind it is different, that point in his life is different and the emotion is different, but you now must take the point and what might have happened for yourself. It’s a little annoying because I was going back and forth throughout the film and things are confirmed for Ms. Wilson, but Luce’s parents are just… ugh I don’t know. I’m not even sure if that makes sense lol.
Ambiguous Narrative. Now, I’m praising this aspect, but I can also imagine it being super frustrating for others because you’re not quite clear on who to believe or what’s really going on. It’s all very stylized and it may feel like the narrative is lost in the music and the shots and what not, which at times I did feel that, being that it’s based on a play, that might be part of the problem so I can imagine it being a tad frustrating.
Overall, I think this movie damn near perfect for me. I mean, the acting is phenomenal from everyone, the characters are well written with smart and interesting dialogue. They have great moments where you wonder their intentions or if they’re being honest and truthful. The movie tackles some hard-hitting topics and I think it handles those topics in a way that feels so real and raw and I understand the characters points of views from that. I didn’t give this its own point but the music in this film is good. The director talked about it on the commentary and how they incorporated it into the film. There are a lot of intense scenes where the actors really kick that dialogue in the teeth and delivers great stuff! Just wow! The narrative is ambiguous and usually that bothers me, but it didn’t here, but I can imagine it bothering someone else, not to mention the ending is frustrating. But wonderful movie, worth all the watches.
Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Luce? If so, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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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