Rated PG-13

105 Minutes

Released June 16

I found The Book of Henry to be a very well written, intricate adventure into the psychology of the human mind. The characters are fascinating. However many filmgoers might find it hard to identify with them. “Henry” is a Leonardo da Vinci type, a child prodigy genius inventor whose extraordinary renegade existence affects the people around him in profound ways. In effect he is the catalyst who makes them grow stronger.

To understand The Book of Henry is to understand the mind of the author of the screenplay, Gregg Hurwitz. Hurwitz is best known as a crime novelist. He likes to do his own research for his stories, sneaking onto demolition ranges with Navy SEALs, swimming with sharks in the Galapagos, and going under cover into secret cults. He was a pole-vaulter at Harvard where he was voted undergraduate scholar/athlete of the year. He played college soccer in England, where he completed his Master’s from Trinity College, Oxford, in Shakespearean tragedy. He has written academic articles on Shakespeare and has lectured at UCLA, USC and Harvard. Hurwitz is also a New York Times Bestselling comic book writer, and has written for Marvel and DC. Hurwitz has also written for television. He wrote the original script for this film in 1998. It is quite likely that Henry is an offshoot of his own personality.

It’s not surprising that this movie has been 20 years in the making. It took a great cast to bring this story to life. Young Jaeden Lieberher, who gave us a great performance in St. Vincent, has the depth to play the genius Henry, highlighting his overdeveloped sense of perception. Jacob Tremblay, who was brilliant in Room, shows incredible dramatic skill in portraying the emotional changes of a young boy coming into his own after a devastating loss. Teen Maddie Ziegler, who has already proven herself as a dancer, does a wonderful job with a character forced to hide her pain. Naomi Watts is a complex, unique, believable Mom who is a coffee shop waitress by day and attacks video games with a vengeance by night. Sarah Silverman is a fellow waitress. Sliverman portrays her character as down to earth, with a highly intelligent street sense.

The sound track by Michael Giacchino is wonderful. Stevie Nicks recorded her new song “Your Hand I Will Never Let It Go” that plays over the final credits. Late in the film, there is an impressive montage of school performers at a talent show. At first it seems that these kids are simply too good to be in a small town elementary school recital, especially the tap dancers. However this performance is really more of very effective accompaniment – a staccato undercurrent to a rapidly accelerating climax.

A pivotal point in the story is when Henry tells his Mom, “Violence isn’t the worst thing in the world.” She asks him, “What is?” “Apathy,” he replies. I strongly disagree with the critics who are panning this movie. I believe they are approaching it in the wrong way. The story has the structure of a classic mystery. It should be seen as a Shakespearean look at the tragic comedy of life.

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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