If you’ve been following this site, then you would have known that The Book of Henry has already been reviewed on this site. For a deeper analysis, I recommend you read MJ Smith’s earlier review. I won’t be doing a full on review per se but since it is a big film, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on it. I didn’t review it when it was released last week now after the reception it’s gotten, I had to see it for myself and the reception was definitely warranted.
This film kind of lulls you into a false sense of security early on because you think that it’s going to go one way but the tone kept shifting so many times that it ended up being more of a mess than anything else. This made it next to impossible to connect with the story on an emotional level. The pieces were there, however, they did not fit together at all. They were just throwing a multitude of subplots at us that it felt like multiple films without doing either of them particularly well, awkwardly transitioning from one to the next.
There have been plenty of stories about genius children, in this case Henry, but this film took it beyond the realm of plausibility which took away from it. Their family dynamic was weird with Henry and Peter living with their mother Susan who was pretty much useless as she depended on Henry for everything. The relationship between Henry and Peter was sort of compelling although there wasn’t nearly enough of it. This could have been okay until they threw child abuse into the mix, at least it was implied as we only had character reactions to go on. The film tried to force suspense, however, it didn’t work because of this.
From there, the story turned to melodrama and devolved into contrived and silly territory from there. Henry was somehow able to devise a plan to stop the abusive stepfather next door but was unable to act on it after tragedy struck, leaving Susan to finish. What happened from there defied logic and believability and so did the twist thereafter.
The acting was mediocre all around which was more due to the script than anything else. Lieberher and Tremblay were okay as Henry and Peter respectively and having decent chemistry. The one who stood out the most, for the wrong reasons, was Watts as Susan. She has been having a bad run as of late and this did not change here. She was simply all over the place here but she couldn’t overcome the bad writing.
Overall, this was an incoherent mess of a film full of awkward tonal shifts feeling like different films although none of them worked. It had decent pieces but just didn’t fit together because of a mediocre script and direction. It’s not the worst film of the year although it’s up there.
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