Hollywood@Home: The Book of Henry

“The Book of Henry” should have been shelved in pre-production.

It’s not quite a family film, in the traditional sense, and it’s certainly not a thriller. “The Book of Henry” is perhaps somewhere inbetween. Henry (Jaden Lieberher) is a highly intelligent 11-year-old who helps his single mother (Naomi Watts) and his younger brother (Jacob Tremblay) cope both financially and emotionally. Henry is mature and very advanced for his age. He’s taken his mother’s modest income and mushroomed it into a large nest egg. He’s also very aware of how intelligent he is, making him a bit off-putting at times.

Something happens to Henry that takes him out of the picture before he can deal with his abusive next door neighbor (Dean Norris). Glenn Sickleman (Norris) has molested his stepdaughter and the girl is emotionally unable to take action. So, Henry takes it for her. He’s going to kill her stepdad in the most perfect way ever devised. He’s written his extensive murder plot in a small book that he gives to his mother for when he steps out of the picture. It’s now up to Susan Carpenter (Watts) to carry out Henry’s murder plan.

Folks, all films require the suspension of disbelief, but “The Book of Henry” asks too much of its audience. Solving child abuse is a very complex issue. But, defying logic, it seems nearly everyone in this story is aware of the abuse going on, yet no one directly intervenes. Social services, the school principal, Henry’s mother and Henry know the girl is being assaulted. Sickleman and his daughter, however, are unaware that anyone knows about them. Couldn’t someone simply bring everyone up to speed?

Additionally, the audience is asked to believe that cold-blooded murder is the only way out of the situation. No one even bothers to ask the girl being abused if she would like to live elsewhere. She only has to speak up and move out.

So, there are two big problems with the story. “Murder,” in my opinion, is not an acceptable solution. And, Henry endangering his family by asking his mom to commit murder is also a non-starter. Even If you can get around these two points, “The Book of Henry” will beat you down with its mediocre performances and unsteady direction. Grade: C-

Murder is the imperfect solution in”The Book of Henry.”