Some movies are decidedly funny, and some are decidedly sad. Only a few, like ‘The Book of Henry’, oscillate between the two so seamlessly. Director Colin Trevorrow (‘Safety Not Guaranteed’) paints a compelling and profoundly moving picture of an unorthodox family in this 2017 coming-of-age drama movie. Only, this is the coming of age of a single mother, who rises to act on behalf of justice. Susan is a single mother living in a suburban home with her two gifted sons. Her elder son, Henry, is a child prodigy, existential soul, and financial guru, all in one. Although he is only 11, he seems way more mature than his video game freak mother.
However, the early jubilance diminishes as the story takes a serious turn. Henry disappears from the screen, but he leaves a book for his mother. Featuring Hollywood A-lister Naomi Watts (‘Mulholland Drive’) with a slew of talented young actors, the film is a treat by itself, albeit it may require you to suspend your disbelief to an extent. Henry’s plan is nearly impossible, but Susan almost pulls it off before she reconsiders it. If questions are popping in your head after the end credits roll, you know that is what we are here for. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Book of Henry Plot Synopsis
Susan, Henry, and Peter Carpenter live in an idyllic suburban home. Susan is a carefree single mother working as a waitress in a nearby eatery, but she has a flair for writing children’s stories. In the absence of a better alternative, her prodigious elder son Henry often takes on the role of the adult at home. While Susan spends her day gaming, drinking, and frolicking with her bestie Sheila, Henry has cultivated his mother’s money at the share market with considerable success. Their neighbors are police commissioner Glenn Sickleman and his stepdaughter Christina.
At school, Henry protects Peter from being bullied. He and Peter sneak out to their covert treehouse to make Rube Goldberg machines, the kind where a movement initiates a butterfly effect. It is an effective way to extract cream on muffins. Moving on, Henry suspects that Glenn is abusing his daughter and tries to convince the school principal of the same. But Glenn is apparently an “upstanding member of the community,” and the principal dissuades Henry from his quest.
Henry calls up Child Protective Services, but they send someone close to Glenn. The school talent hunt show is coming up, and Susan offers to drive Christina to the event. In the meantime, Henry falls sick, and the MRI captures an overgrown tumor in his head. Henry passes away but leaves his legacy in a red diary – a step-by-step guide for his mother to murder Glenn Sickleman. Susan follows all the steps, but in the nick of time, she is forced to rethink her decision and confront Glenn instead.
The Book of Henry Ending: Why Does Susan Not Kill Glenn?
Henry’s titular book forms the crux of the story. Before passing away, Henry instructs his ever-faithful brother Peter to give the diary to their mother. Aggravated by the plight of Christina, Henry creates a detailed plan in his diary to posthumously take down Glenn. The set of instructions are intended for his mother, Susan. In the notebook, Henry has stressed the fact that Glenn must be killed, that there is no other way to deal with the precarious situation. Susan initially thinks that there may be some other way, but following the instructions of the diary, she stumbles upon Henry’s old voice recorder.
Shortly after, she sees an episode between Christina and Glenn, which compels her to act. The ghost of Henry converses with his mother through the recorder, laying down the basics of the plan. She runs errands at a weaponry shop as per the address given by Henry, buying a sniper rifle with an illegal suppressor. Following the plan, Susan goes to the other side of the creek to Henry and Peter’s treehouse for aiming practice. Susan visits her formidable neighbor with the excuse of signing a form of consent for his daughter’s participation in the talent show. She tries to judge the relationship between the father and the stepdaughter based on small details, like whether Glenn has saved up for his daughter’s future.
As per the plan, Susan takes Peter and Christina to the talent show and sneaks out afterward. She goes back to the treehouse, sets up the sniper, and hoots for a while to catch Glenn’s attention. Glenn comes under the sight of the scope, and Henry’s recorded voice is urging Susan to pull the trigger. But in the end, she decides to act like an adult and confront Glenn instead. Henry thinks that violence is not as bad a thing as apathy, the willingness to refrain from acting. Therefore, after the setback from Child Protective Services, the solution of murder is the most plausible one for Henry. Susan, however, is a pacifist who thinks that things can be solved in less bloody ways. Therefore, she confronts Glenn, and her razor-sharp words seemingly have a similar impact as bullets.
Was Christina Being Abused by Glenn?
From the very beginning of the movie, we meet the annoying neighbor of the Carpenter family, Glenn Sickleman, who is unhappy that fallen leaves from the Carpenter estate are dirtying his property. Henry has the hunch that Glenn Sickleman abuses his juvenile stepdaughter, Christina. One night, Henry wakes up to see blue light flickering in the window. He goes to the window to catch a glimpse of Christina throwing light at a crystal glass. Glenn finishes his drink and comes upstairs.
The view is not clear, but the horrific nature of the incident is clear from Henry’s distressed expressions. Later in the movie, Susan sees a similar kind of episode from the same window, which makes her convinced of Glenn’s shameful fatherhood. Moreover, the moving dance performance by Christina speaks a volume about her melancholy and afraid state. While Glenn does not turn up for his daughter’s talent show, the performance is what finally convinces the school principal to take hold of the situation and call Child Protective Services.
Is Glenn Dead or Alive?
If you have seen the entirety of the movie, this must be a no-brainer to you. Police commissioner Glenn Sickleman is an upstanding and powerful member of the community who thinks he can get away with the heinous crime of abusing his own stepdaughter. Child Protective Services appear to be rigged, as they send George Sickleman (presumably Glenn’s brother) to handle the case internally, without causing much uproar. While Susan does not pull the trigger, the school principal’s call does much harm to the public image of the commissioner. Therefore, he chooses to take his own life when a police arsenal surrounds his house. In the end, Susan takes custody of Christina, and the memory of Henry keeps the family together. Susan has considerable savings thanks to Henry’s informed market decisions, and she chooses to take it even easier.
Read More: Where Was The Book of Henry Filmed?