By Ian Morton
Book of Henry does a stellar job at playing the heartstrings, but the frequent waves of emotion only hide a mixed and disjointed plot.
After discovering his next door neighbour is being abused by her father, a young boy, his mother and younger brother hatch a plan to rescue her at any cost.
Clearly a passion project between larger ventures, director Colin Trevorrow tries his best to get back to his routes but ultimately falls short with a story that doesn’t quite work.
Attempting to delve into the intricacies and difficulties of a single parent household, the story builds its foundations early with a series of heart felt set pieces designed to get you involved in family life. While this isn’t something that may ring alarm bells, the frustration comes when you peel back the carefully crafted emotional veil to see a directionless beginning, underdeveloped themes and overfamiliar plot points.
The first half, whilst setting the scene is incredibly long winded with very little happening to build the depth and gravitas that the finale ultimately relies on. Yes, there is certainly some character development in there but without touching on the main themes, the result is a plot that seemingly skims over some of the more delicate elements of story in favour of family dynamics.
These underdeveloped themes are then, for some unknown reason, used to prop up the overstuffed second half. Attempting to genre swap halfway through, we are faced with an uncomfortably unbalanced movie, with one half resembling ‘My Girl’ and the other ‘Hitman’. This genre warp, while brave, just leaves the audience scratching their heads instead of entertained.
The performances are what you expect from something like this. The young leads, Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay, channel similar characters to their work previously while Naomi Watts is fine as the mother of the piece. The gentle giant, Lee Pace goes woefully unused but with so many issues plaguing the story already, forgotten side plots are the least of its worries.
Ultimately, Book of Henry is a weak attempt at trying to bury a broken plot under a veil of emotion. Trying to mash genres is always hard to do but in this case, it just hasn’t worked in the way many would have wanted it to. 2 out of 5 stars.
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