THE BOOK OF HENRY review by Ronnie Malik – Colin Trevorrow crafts a surprising family drama

THE BOOK OF HENRY review by Ronnie Malik – Colin Trevorrow crafts a surprising family drama

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman, Dean Norris, Lee Pace, Maddie Ziegler, Bobby Moynihan

The Book of Henry starts off as a delightful story following the family life of Susan (Naomi Watts) and her two boys Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Susan, a waitress in a local dinner, relies on her older son Henry to take care of her and Peter, even the financials. Henry is a brilliant 12-year-old child progeny that is mature beyond his years. This young man takes on the responsibility of looking after his self-doubting mother and adorable 8-year-old brother.  The interaction between the mother and her sons is often extremely funny and sweet.  Life seems very normal for this suburban threesome, but things take a dark turn when Henry becomes interested in the life of his neighbor and classmate Christina (Maddie Zielger).

Henry is on a mission to save Christina from her abusive stepfather, Glenn (Dean Norris), who just happens to be the powerful local police commissioner. The boy concocts an elaborate rescue plan that he carefully details in his diary.  Susan eventually discovers Henry’s book, is completely horrified by the secret she has discovered and decides to put Henry’s plan into action. This family drama is an intense story of dealing with abuse, loss, grief, anger, and self-realization.

It is the cast of this production that brings to life the emotional connection audiences will feel as they watch the characters of The Book of Henry cope with unexpected twists life throws in their paths.  Jaeden Lieberher is phenomenal as the intellectually brilliant child whose passions are the driving force behind his actions. The young man’s portrayal of a child taking on the encumbrances of an adult is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.   Naomi Watts is lovable as the single mom trying to raise her kids, but also delivers a strong emotional performance as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery when faced with adversity.  Dean Norris does “creepy dad” really well and totally makes your skin crawl, and Jacob Tremblay and Maddie Zegler effectively play children trying to emotionally survive during difficult times.  The cast pulls together an amazing and touching story of families surviving turmoil.

Under the masterful and careful direction of Colin Trevorrow, and utilizing the emotionally-challenging screenplay of Gregg Hurwitz, The Book of Henry addresses how the lack of apathy and action to protect people in need can adversely affect those around us.  The powerful message that society often turns a blind eye to injustice will be food for thought after watching this film. This is a story about a courageous young boy who fights for what he believes in and it is his conviction for doing the right thing that elevates those around him.  The end result is a compelling and emotional film that will pull at your heartstrings, and winds up being one of the best films so far this year.

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