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AndersonVision Best Films of 2017: #21 – The Book of Henry (Focus Features)


“The Book of Henry” is over determined. Modern youthful viewers don’t know how to read that, so they reject. By youthful, I mean viewers in their 20s and early 30s. People younger than that don’t watch movies anymore, so get ready for that Studio System! After seeing this film in private, I knew the response it was going to get. I hung back and observed others as they tangled with “The Book of Henry”. Older viewers got it, but that certain age range went hysterical.

Nobody is losing a Star Wars installment over this. Suggesting such garbage is part of the reason why no one takes you seriously. The right people will get that barb, so let’s talk about the actual movie. Naomi Watts works in the movie. Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay make it work playing her kids who work out precocious plans. While some find Lieberher’s titular character to be a bit far-fetched, I don’t. Hell, I knew at least two kids like that.

When the forward action of the film happens, that’s where the whinier chunk of the audience appears.  You’re going to notice when writers discuss this film, the spoilers are going to fly free. What’s weird is that you can’t help but step into that area with this movie. Anyways, Henry dies about 35 minutes into the film. The title kid has a brain tumor and dies before he can save the molested girl next door. Naomi Watts gets her son’s plans for freeing the girl. But, she only agrees to partake in juvenile vigilante justice after observing the preteen girl getting attacked by her stepfather.


The rest of the film delves into a logic trap that would’ve normally killed a film like this. But, let’s address the elephant in the room. Bigger summer releases about smart kids and their families can’t draw an audience anymore. The fascination with weird smart people ended somewhere in the early 00s. It’s hard to sell quirkiness on a larger scale, when the Internet is feel of social media freaks demanding your constant attention. That’s why Watts’ kids have to talk her into buying a sniper rifle.

Poor Jacob Tremblay and Maddie Ziegler spend the rest of the film feeling like after thoughts. Naomi Watts has no connection to saving Ziegler outside of disgust and obligation to her older son. Jacob Tremblay feels like an alternate universe reminder of a potentially better movie. His thoughts and feelings over his brother’s death are brushed aside like garbage. Dean Norris and Sarah Silverman get their moments to shine, but those moments are sparse.

In an age of forced empowerment, “The Book of Henry” smacks that sentiment in the face. That’s why so many viewers are responding so wildly negative to said film. Sometimes, life goes terrible and dumb people are left with little to no tools to fight it. There’s a mix of authoritarian fear, mourning the loss of childhood and forced maturity that creates a hodgepodge of awfulness. I applaud any movie that ends the Supermom fantasy construct. Naomi Watts plays a fuck-up perfectly, as she can’t even manage to pull off the fantasy murder scenario of her 11 year old son.

This movie is going to be remembered for awhile. A lot of that shared memory won’t be good, but I recommend rushing to theaters to see this oddity of a film. I could easily see this movie bouncing out of theaters by the time that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” bows. There is no room left at the Cineplex for ambition or taking a chance. See something different this summer. Actually, go see something different that isn’t being spoon fed to you by on-line Hipster trash people.


  • 1 hr and 45 mins
  • PG-13
  • Focus Features


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