Unlike most people, i prefer to read reviews after watching movies. This allows me to rethink the movie. Normally I can see where most criticism is coming from even if i disagree. However, the National Review's review of 'Book of Henry' is horribly off base.
The 'Book of Henry' is, at its core, about bad parenting and political violence. The main character, Susan (Naomi Watts) is shown as a parent who acts more like a fifteen year old teen boy. Her eleven year old, Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), is the one running the house. He pays the bills and earns the family money through trading stocks. Henry has headaches throughout the first act and has a seizure. It is revealed that Henry had been having headaches for months and putting the off as 'not a big deal'. In reality, Henry's headaches have been the signs of cancer and he dies by the end of the third act. Susan deals with it by laying in bed crying and only making dessert for her younger son, Peter, (Jacob Tremble) to eat.
The movie has another major theme, political violence. The majority of the second half of the movie is focused on Susan embarking on a plot to kill the police commissioner, Glenn Sickleman (Dean Norris) because he is abusing his eleven year old daughter, Christina (Maddie Ziegler). Henry documents the abuse and Susan eventually looks through a window and sees the abuse. Henry is convinced that Murder is the only way to save Christina. Susan goes to a gun store in a bad area of town, buys a semi-Automatic and silencer without a permit by invoking a Drug Lord's name. (Henry had heard this name when visiting the store). Susan forges the Police Commissioner's signature on guardianship papers to insure she will get custody when he is done. She plans to carry out the deed during the school talent show, which Glenn will not be attending but Christina and Peter will.
Seems pretty bad, right? But here is the big deal, as we see Susan go through these steps we wish there had been a different way. Susan fought to do it legally. She made call after call trying to go through the legal channels. She doesn't go through the same channels that shut the door in Henry's face, but still no one believes her. So she feels backed into a corner.
But here's the catch, she doesn't do it. Susan changes her mind ditches the guns and makes it for Peter's magic trick. After she leaves, Glenn commits suicide. Some weeks after, Susan becomes Christina's legal guardian.
In short, the best possible outcome happens. The bad guy dies, the damsel in distress is saved, the boy genius ends up being wrong, and Justice prevails (in that perverse 'the bad guy has to die' kind of way). The message of 'Book of Henry' is that violence is never the right answer. Violence is the childish answer and Susan didn't see that until it was almost too late.