Drama/Thriller starring Naomi Watts, Sarah Silverman, and Lee Pace. Henry is an intelligent young boy, he takes care of his family finances, looks after his younger brother, and creates machines that entertain everyone. His family is open and honest, and everything seems to be going great, but there are two things that are bothering Henry. The first is that his neighbour Christina is being abused by her Step-Father, who happens to be the Chief of Police, he can see the signs and no one will stand up to the powerful man. The second problem is the headaches that are becoming more and more frequent. After the headaches lead to seizures, they find a mass in his brain, and there is no hope of a cure. Henry sadly dies, and while trying to pick up the pieces of their lives the Brother and the Mother find his book with all the information about the abuse going on next door. Henry has left a plan for them to follow but it’s a little extreme.
The importance of this movie for adults and children alike is far and above any film this summer. The issues dealt with in the film are about child safety, mental health issues, general health, and what to do when you see abuse going on in front of you. When writing some of my own fictional work that deals with social issues there is one premise that I take to heart above all else, if you want to educate through fiction you have to entertain. It gets the message through quicker than just plodding through facts.
The Book of Henry does this in spades and should be very proud of a script that gets through to the issues while being damn entertaining. Then you have performances, and for the first time in a long time I enjoyed Naomi Watt’s in a film. Lee Pace is the caring surgeon that tries to help Henry in Hospital, and while he can’t help the boy, he feels he can heal Brother and Mother. It’s nice to see him getting this role in a serious drama and he doesn’t disappoint. Sarah Silverman also breaks from her normal routine/roll and gives a touching performance as an alcoholic waitress and friend to the family. What really stands out in this film is that children are fantastic Jaeden Lieberher as Henry is like a less annoying Sheldon Cooper and far more likeable than the Big Bang Theory character. He gives this wonderfully touching, sentimental, and yet powerful performance. Maddie Ziegler as Christina pushes past the years of her life to draw out her role, she understands the victim that she has to play and the subtle hidden things that fill their lives.
After the death of Henry things change, I honestly thought that this was going to be a one note movie, just going for the heartstrings and pulling them without remorse, don’t get me wrong that does happen. But there is a depth here that goes far and above that notion. Mixed into the different emotional levels are performances that will astound you, a sharp script that comments on social issues, the abuse of power, abuse of children, children talking about their health, and being entertaining as well. The change in pace after the death brings in more entertainment.
I questioned who the audience of this film would be while watching the first ten minutes, and then it hit me. This film is for everyone. There is a subtle message in there for all movie goers and if you think there is not then you need to watch again. Everyone in this film needs saving in one way or another, whether they realise it or not, and sometimes the people in our lives who are in the most danger are those who keep quiet about it. Well worth a visit to your local cinema.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Stars: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay