Only a week or so after the release of ‘Gifted’ comes another film focused on a child genius; ‘The Book of Henry’. Brought to us by director Colin Trevorrow who’s probably best known for rebooting the ‘Jurassic Park’ series back in 2015. He’s also set to direct ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ so would his latest effort give us a new hope for what’s to come?
The film stars two of the most exciting up and coming child actors in todays film industry, Jaeden Lieberher & Jacob Tremblay. Both really came into the forefront of audience attention last year with their respective films, ‘Midnight Special’ & ‘Room’. It’s brilliant to see them at work once again so soon after these movies and even more so as we get to see them sharing the screen. Both are very good in their roles, each coming with different challenges. Naomi Watts leads the adult cast as the mother of these two boys. She’s not the stereotypical single mother that you might except, the narrative circumstances allow for otherwise. She’s great in this role though, making this unorthodox relationship fairly believable. Sarah Silverman also stars in the feature and deserves a mention. She has a wonderful back & forth with Lieberher making the scenes they shared some of the best in the film. However the chemistry that all four of these performers had with each other made for a very effective dynamic evoking humour and emotion.
Whilst the performances are really enjoyable it’s the narrative that holds a few issues. ‘The Book of Henry’ begins as an alternative family drama but blink and you’ll think you’re watching a different film. It develops into this far-fetched thriller that seems worlds apart from the drama you’ve just seen unfold. The first half is definitely stronger and I wonder if the film could have been something more if this was simply elongated and further developed for the entire running time. The more whimsical second half always stops you from fully engaging with the story. However, saying that there are attempts made at being self-aware with even the characters acknowledging how ridiculous things have become. There is an added element of humour which comes with this too, which is actually effective without being ironic. For the most part it’s the performances that carry the film through it’s more challenging second half. Futhermore, the narrative as a whole includes interesting themes such as power, corruption, relationships & parenting though which I found helped to engage me as a viewer.
‘The Book of Henry’ certainly has it’s heart in the right place but I wouldn’t blame you if you thought it unraveled itself in it’s second half. Despite the serious subject matter there is a good level of humour throughout and the drama is often appropriately moving. It was the chemistry of the main cast that really sold the film for me though. Tremblay is as adorable as ever, with Lieberher further solidifying his talent as a young actor. Watts & Silverman complete the core of likeable main characters which helps you to stay with the movie when it becomes slightly more unbelievable. All of this results in ‘The Book of Henry’ becoming easily enjoyable light entertainment with a run time that flies by.
Rating – 7/10
Question: Who is your favourite child actor working today?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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