Jury Coordination and Notes

The Book of Henry – Surprisingly good with excellent writing and performances

Sometimes things are not always what they seem, especially in the small suburban town where the Carpenter family lives. Single suburban mother Susan Carpenter works as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty family friend Sheila. Her younger son Peter is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything in his own unique way is Susan’s older son Henry, age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother – and, through investments, of the family as a whole – Henry blazes through the days like a comet. Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina, has a dangerous secret – and that Henry has devised a surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape in thrilling ways, Susan finds herself at the center of it. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “However, I was pleasantly surprised by this under-the-radar film and am sure general audiences will as well. The Book of Henry is an emotionally affecting film with a few fine messages about parenthood and altruism.” See his full review below.

The Book of Henry
Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18

I had no expectations going into this movie. I knew I like the director, the leading actress and it has an interesting premise. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this under-the-radar film and am sure general audiences will as well. The Book of Henry is an emotionally affecting film with a few fine messages about parenthood and altruism.

The movie actually surprised me. Perhaps it’s because I had no prior knowledge about it, but the twist (I don’t think it’s supposed to be a twist per se) in the movie is reminiscent of Psycho, in that the seeming protagonist has an interesting cinematic journey. That provides the basis of our catharsis. It’s actually very solid writing. We become invested in this character who has a charm and wit about him that’s irresistibly likable and we fall for him. We become invested in his relationships with his mother, his little brother and his neighbor. The plot is already in motion and then the twist happens.

After this twist, the true protagonist comes to the forefront and we become invested in her because we feel for her and root for her cause. The only issue – her cause happens to be literally unbelievable and predictably improbable. However, we find ourselves nearly believing it. I mean, there’s a sequence that’s utterly Hitchcockian, when there’s cross editing between two separate scenes. One scene is used as the musical background for the other and the tension is palpable. It’s reminiscent of the concert scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much. It all comes to a satisfying ending that we all knew was coming and yet, isn’t any less smile inducing.

The performances are very good. Naomi Watts is one of our generation’s most consistent actors and the youngsters Jacob Tremblay and  Jaeden Lieberher hold their weight and then some. However the score and direction deserve a lot of credit. The film is very well paced and switches between tones so seamlessly. Never are we pulled out of the film because it gets boring or it goes too quickly or it switches between genres.

A lot of reviews are bashing the film. Don’t get me wrong, it has its flaws. The foundation of the character is never told and is a glaring hole. A few plot elements are improbable, definitely. However, those are forgivable in the grand scheme. This film has charm and intrigue. I believe it’ll go down as one of those films where critics and general audiences just don’t agree. With that said, I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It can be seen at a local theater when it opens June 16, 2017.

 

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