Movie Review of the Week: The Book of Henry

A tragic and charming story about a young boy trying to get the adult world to listen.

Movie Review of the Week: The Book of Henry

When my mom called me downstairs to watch a movie that I had never heard of, I can honestly say that I was annoyed. I sighed loud she proceeded to queue up the movie. I watched as she searched for it and was confused when I saw the title: The Book of Henry. It was made in 2017, but I’d never even heard of it. She pressed play, and I really wasn’t expecting much. And then the movie started.

As soon as the opening credits rolled, I was impressed by the whimsical imagery and beautiful New England setting. The film begins with brothers Henry and Peter Carpenter waiting for their mother Susan to pick them up after school. Henry is obviously the hyper-intelligent, insightful glue that holds the family together. Despite his young age of eleven, he is wise beyond his years. But the most compelling aspect of Henry’s character is his sense of compassion.

While empathy for our fellow man is a good thing, Henry seems to be empathetic to a fault, and this is never more evident than the moment the central conflict is introduced. I should warn you now that even though this movie has seemed endearing so far, it takes a dark turn very quickly.

Next door to Henry’s family lives the police commissioner Glen Sickleman and his step-daughter Christina, who is the same age as Henry. One night, Henry wakes up and wanders to a window from which he can see Christina in her room. Images of her playing with a snow globe and a flashlight were quickly forgotten when Glen enters her room. As he walks toward her, the camera immediately cuts back to Henry’s horrified face, implying that Christina is being sexually assaulted.

The very next day, Henry begins doing everything within his power to bring the assault to light; he tells his mom, he talks to the school principal, he calls child protective services, but to no avail. He keeps running into the same lame excuse. No one would listen because they didn’t want to “subject an upstanding citizen to public scrutiny.” Knowing that none of these options would work, he started figuring out his own method to take down Glen. Every plan that he thought of was written down in a red notebook. 

Then, tragedy struck. Unfortunately, Henry dies of an aggressive brain tumor. How a movie can go on if the main character dies halfway through it? Well, just before he died, Henry told his brother to give his red notebook to their mother. In it, Henry tells Susan to go to the basement and open their safe, inside, there is a cassette player with Henry’s recorded instructions on how to kill Glen.

From buying illegal firearms to perfecting the staging area to planning every step of the process down to the minute, Susan follows Henry’s recipe for what is essentially a vigilante murder against the police commissioner.

I know I said that I was originally annoyed when my mom sat me down to watch this movie, but I am so glad she did. It was a beautiful, tragic and ultimately uplifting story about a boy trying to help someone live a better life. It taught me that even when people tell me to mind my own business, I should never turn a blind eye to someone that needs help. It taught me that adults aren’t always right, and young people have the power to make a difference if they are persistent enough. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for a tear jerking and heartwarming story.