Knowingly Nuts: Our Review of ‘The Book Of Henry’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 16, 2017
Knowingly Nuts: Our Review of ‘The Book Of Henry’

There is something admittedly admirable about going out on a limb creatively, even when you are way the fuck out there…

While The Book Of Henry is more than certainly mired in some epic logic and storytelling flaws, it’s also the ‘Perfect Storm’ of crazy as what is essentially an over qualified ensemble cast takes a corny, ‘movie of the week’ kind of premise and turns into something not only uniquely watchable but compelling all at the same time.

It’s small town suburbia and more often than not, things are not exactly as they seem, especially for the Carpenter family.  Susan Carpenter (Naomi Watts) is your average single mother working as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty family friend Sheila (Sarah Silverman). Her younger son Peter (Jacob Tremblay) is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything in his own unique way is Susan’s older son Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother he takes care of the entire family in more ways than one, as his high IQ and savvy business sense have provided his family a nice little nest egg.   Henry blazes through the days with a brilliant sense of genius both moral and practical. Meanwhile, Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina (Maddie Ziegler), has a dangerous secret and that Henry has devised an even more surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape, Susan finds herself at the center of it.

While we won’t spoil some of the twists and turns this movie has, along with some gaping holes in logic and plot devices that are actually kind of crass, The Book Of Henry has a certain degree of unwavering ambition to it that you can’t help but appreciate and it rises above the mess thanks to some incredibly strong performances across the board.

In most normal circumstances the script from first time feature writer Gregg Hurwitz is littered with ridiculous plot points, holes in logic, corny set ups and weak dialogue that this may have not even made the cut as a ‘Lifetime’ movie of the week but when you have a director and an ensemble who are tackling the material with completely earnest intentions and it draws you in like you would have never expected.  Colin Trevorrow finds the balance between the emotionally heavy moments and the lighter touches throughout the narrative, had this film leaned one way or the other it could have easily slide completely off the rails.  While I’m not entirely sure if it was talent or dumb luck, this movie never ever drags and it flows in an engaging fashion all throughout.

Young Jaden Lieberher is the absolute lynch pin that makes this entire movie work.  He’s balanced emotionally and we as an audience believe in him as the lead in this story, even when the story itself is going god knows where.  Granted having young Jacob Tremblay cry in any movie any more is probably the cheapest cinematic ploy in our modern age, the kid manages to hang with everyone else in the story while Naomi Watts plays the embattled yet loving and charismatic mother quite well.  Sarah Silverman added some nice comedic colour while Lee Pace is basically being Lee Pace and while Maddie Ziegler really doesn’t get much to do as their neighbour with a secret, Dean Norris manages a compelling energy as her stepdad.

Ultimately, I can’t really deny that this movie is kind of a mess but I think that’s why it works.  In many ways The Book Of Henry more or less knows how ridiculous it is, but you can’t help but be compelled watching it navigate its way to an ending.


This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.