It's funny how a person can watch an entire film and COMPLETELY miss the story! As I exited the screening of Colin Trevorrow's "Book of Henry", I overheard a guy talking to a friend (who'd seen another film) about the film. When asked he said the film was "about a boy who had a book; and he was genius trying to fix everything that was wrong."


Please sir, sign up for my "Film Comprehension 101" class in the fall. There is a huge gap between what you think you saw and what the film was really about.


Despite the title, the film isn't about Henry (played dutifully by Jaeden Lieberher), he was an important character but the central character is Naomi Watts who plays his mother Susan. She is a woman left with two boys when their father abruptly took off and abandoned them. Her youngest son is Peter (Jacob Tremblay) who looks adoringly up to his genius older brother. Yes, Henry does have the answer to everything.

Susan is a waitress at Hildebrandt's Ice Cream Parlor in a small New York town. She is a genuinely good woman and diligent mother but has turned over the head of household to 11-year old Henry because of both his high maturity level and his extremely high intelligence level. Together, they are rearing Peter with Henry making many day-to-day decisions; such as dietary.


This arrangement hasn't worked out too bad as Henry's high acumen has led to him developing a substantial investment portfolio for his mom; he tries on several occasions to convince her that she no longer has to no avail.


Susan's biggest attribute and failing is that she is an enabler. Not only does she enable her son to make adult decisions without oversight, but she enables her alcoholic best friend Sheila (Sarah Silverman) by drinking with her. She also enables their next door neighbor Glenn Sickleman (Dean Morris) to continue to abuse his young daughter Christina (Maddie Ziegler) by simply looking the other way. That, sadly is Susan's fatal flaw...apathy. And, it is a flaw that Henry so poignantly points out to her when she turns her back on a man publicly abusing his lady-friend.

But Henry cannot turn his back and continuously pursues bringing charges against Glenn to no avail. His initial attempts are directly to his school principle (Tonya Pinkins) who confesses that nothing can be done by her until there is bona fide evidence. The evidence gets whitewashed because Glenn happens to be the chief of police, too.


Completely frustrated, Henry devises a plan, with the assistance of Peter, to end the abuse by snuffing out Glenn. He draws out his plan in his daily journal of ideas and then his plan is thwarted at about the midway point in the film because of a medical condition he has. It seems that massive intelligence came at a price.


But it leaves Susan the task of fulfilling the plan herself once she gets so angry that she agrees with Henry's belief that apathy is more dangerous than violence. She follows his plan - to a tee. Um...okay?!


Watts struggles as the ditzy mom who really needs to grow up and be the adult of her small family. She falls flat displaying the appropriate emotions that any mother would. Tremblay, however once again nails the sweet little kid role, though his Peter character isn't as complex nor as well rounded as his Jack character in "Room" (2015). Lieberher is wonderful with his role replete with lots of dialogue and emotion. And Norris has channelled his best Raymond Burr ("Rear Window") imitation in a thoroughly suspenseful role as the creepy neighbor.


However, Trevorrow saps up the melodrama and overplays the tearjerker plot devices. This would have played better if it weren't overtly pushing the hankies in front of you. This would have been a better suspense thriller than the feeble attempt at a weeper.


"The Book of Henry" is only a fairly decent film about a mother who never had to be the adult, but who suddenly needs to make adult decisions for her family and the sake of the child next door.   -- GEOFF BURTON