The Book of Henry (2017) Review

Updated on September 2, 2019
One of many theatrical one-sheet posters for "The Book of Henry."
One of many theatrical one-sheet posters for "The Book of Henry." | Source

Die, Cry, and Bittersweet

Henry Carpenter (Jaeden Lieberher) is an incredibly gifted 11-year-old. He’s the smartest kid in school and the most level-headed individual in his household. He also has a hobby of building intricate devices (think Mouse Trap or Wile E. Coyote inventions that actually work) and makes financial investments all while taking care of the bills at home. Meanwhile his younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay) is a normal boy who gets bullied at school and just wants to be like his older brother. Meanwhile their mother Susan (Naomi Watts) mostly plays video games after a long day of waitressing at the local diner all before ending her evening with getting drunk with her co-worker and best friend Sheila (Sarah Silverman).

Henry has a red book he’s been using to plan on saving his next door neighbor Christina (Maddie Ziegler). Christina is beaten and abused by her stepfather Glenn Sicklemann (Dean Norris), but Glenn is able to get away with it thanks to the many connections he has acquired over the years by being a well-respected police officer. Since no one else will help Christina, Henry takes matters into his own hands. However devastation strikes the Carpenter family and Henry must rely on his mother to finish what he started.

Naomi Watts as Susan Carpenter in "The Book of Henry."
Naomi Watts as Susan Carpenter in "The Book of Henry."

Crime novelist and comic book author (30 issues of Batman: The Dark Knight and 30+ issues of Punisher among many others) Gregg Hurwitz wrote the first draft of The Book of Henry screenplay all the way back in 1998. Director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World) was brought in as director, but production was delayed so Trevorrow could finish Jurassic World. With the ludicrousness that transpires over the course of The Book of Henry’s bloated hour and 45 minute duration, you can see why a film can stay in the gestation period for so long.

The first 40 or so minutes of this dramatic thriller are fairly solid. You become entranced with the chemistry shared between Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, and Naomi Watts. Lieberher continues to portray the type of too-smart-for-his-own-good kind of character that he jump-started with St. Vincent while Tremblay expands upon the innocence and naivety that he became known for in Room. Watts is like a lost puppy as Susan Carpenter. She has the nurturing part of motherhood down, but is completely clueless as her eyes glaze over in a hazy state of bewilderment whenever important or adult decisions need to be made. Watts steals the film once grief and loss become the focal point of the picture.

Jaeden Lieberher as Henry Carpenter in "The Book of Henry."
Jaeden Lieberher as Henry Carpenter in "The Book of Henry."

The rest of the film is frankly unbelievable trite. What begins as an interesting premise stretches out for far too long and is something that has to be dangled in front of the characters repeatedly before it finally sets in. Emotional moments in the film take a turn for the worst as they overstay their welcome and bleed over into sappy and overdramatic territory. Sobbing for ten minutes in a hospital bed seems like overkill as it is, but following that up with someone else walking into the room and doing the same thing before hugging their knees in the fetal position and making nothing but dessert for days at a time is like using sixteen cans of Raid to fuel a flamethrower aimed at a giant ant hill.

The finale of The Book of Henry takes a flying leap into, “Duh!” territory and the Dr. David Daniels character played by Lee Pace seems to only be relevant because Pace likes sticking his beard in places it doesn’t belong. The character is pointless and unnecessary once the film leaves the hospital. Meanwhile Susan’s little escapade to the gun shop and how far she takes a plan left by an 11-year-old recording a book on tape is beyond farfetched even for an elongated melodrama.

Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay as Henry and Peter Carpenter in "The Book of Henry."
Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay as Henry and Peter Carpenter in "The Book of Henry."

The Book of Henry is like the soggy, moistness left by the saddest moments of Phenomenon accepted a warm yet unwanted embrace from The Lovely Bones while Rear Window spied on them through binoculars from the house next door. The lead actors put everything they can into their performances and it shows, but even the likes of Naomi Watts can’t save a drama built on a poorly constructed, overdeveloped, weakly executed, and immature scheme of something a normal thinking adult would have brushed off immediately. If you wanted to badly explain the film plot of The Book of Henry then it could be summed up as a dead baby scavenger hunt.

2 stars for The Book of Henry (2017)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 

      3 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I have not even heard of this film, but it seems like something I might enjoy. Another great film review. Thanks for sharing. I will have to look this film up.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)