A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.
Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.
Trey Edward Shults
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. Written by
"The Book of Henry" is a creative and satisfying take on the issue of child abuse and what to do about it.
The 2017 drama "The Book of Henry" (PG-13, 1:45) joins what has become a sub-genre among family dramas the genius kid film. These are movies about children and teens who are brilliant in their own right, or are at least much, much smarter than their parents. In 1991, Jodie Foster starred in "Little Man Tate" about a woman who discovers that her son is a genius and fights to give him every opportunity to live up to his potential. Two years later, "Searching for Bobby Fisher" focused on a chess prodigy who resists the idea of losing himself in the quest for competitive greatness. In 2000's "Finding Forrester", Sean Connery is a reclusive author who reluctantly mentors a very talented young minority writer. The following year, in "I Am Sam", Sean Penn plays a mentally challenged man whose highly intelligent daughter basically takes care of him. In the spring of 2017, "Gifted" gave us the story of a mathematical prodigy whose father struggles to make sure she has a childhood, before she's exploited by the adults around her. The summer 2017 entry into this sub-genre mixes elements that appeared in those earlier films, includes a story of child abuse and becomes a movie that is as touching as it is unique almost.
Henry Carpenter is working hard to take care of his family. He makes sure they're protected from the actions and negative influences of other people. He discourages unhealthy habits like smoking, eating too many sweets and drinking too much (or enabling those who do such things). Henry tries to keep everyone's moral compass pointing in the right direction, criticizing actions like swearing in front of children and insisting that protecting those who need defending is one of the most important ethical principles of all. He also uses his intellect to make a lot of money in the stock market, building a sizeable nest egg for his family in the process. Of course, this is all highly unusual for an 11-year-old boy.
Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a genius and the most mature member of his family. With no father in sight, he's helping to raise his younger brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), who defers to Henry on most family and household matters, and, instead of parenting, spends her time playing video games and drinking with her best friend and fellow waitress, Sheila (Sarah Silverman). It takes a problem beyond the walls of their house to make Henry, Peter and Susan evolve into more traditional familial roles. When Henry becomes aware that a classmate (Maddie Ziegler) who lives next door is being abused by her step-father (Dean Norris), Henry formulates a plan to save the girl.
"The Book of Henry" is a creative and satisfying take on the issue of child abuse and what to do about it. It's tough to talk much about the plot of this movie without getting into major spoilers, but that's part of what makes this movie special. It's not a straight-forward story, but uses unusual circumstances and major plot twists to emphasize the importance of defending the defenseless at (almost) all costs. The script, by novelist and television writer Gregg Hurwitz, is a little disjointed and goes too far in portraying Susan as a mother who is present in body, but absentee in practice. Director Colin Trevorrow follows that lead, straining credulity. Watts then has to struggle to create a believable character and never quite gets there, but, in character and as actors, rising stars Lieberher and Tremblay help make up for her shortcomings. Meanwhile, Ziegler (in her first feature film) makes a sympathetic and resilient victim, while Norris plays the villain with subtle menace. It all makes for an entertaining, if somewhat flawed, morality tale, which will put Movie Fans through something of an emotional wringer, but also make them smile, laugh, and think along the way. "B+"
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