There’s been an added element of scrutiny placed upon American auteur Colin Trevorrow, due to the filmmaker stepping into the precious territory that is the Star Wars universe. With such a job comes immense responsibility and it feels as though the knives have been sharpened for him, as he disappoints with his latest endeavour The Book of Henry. Though tonally the film is misjudged, and narratively it’s simply absurd – the one thing that does come into question is Trevorrow’s judgement, for you only have to be recited this story to know it would be an incredibly tough nut to crack, and one that even the likes of Spielberg would’ve struggled to get right. So let’s just remember, a bad film does not mean a bad director. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.

Jaeden Lieberher plays child genius Henry; an 11-year-old who invents things, he does his mother Susan’s (Naomi Watts) finances and he cares for his little brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay), and the two depend on him immeasurably. If anything was to happen to him, they’d both be lost – but fear not, Henry has everything under control, as he gives his mother a book – and voice recording – with instructions, with the ultimate aim of rescuing the next door neighbour Christina (Maddie Ziegler) from the clutches of her abusive step-father Glenn Sickleman (Dean Norris) – but such is the standing of the latter’s role in society, he proves to be a rather hard man to take down.

The Book of HenryThere’s an odd Hollywood fascination with these precocious, wise-above-their-years teenagers, and often it seems to be because some writers are not so well-equipped at writing authentic dialogue for kids that age – so just write speech as though delivered by an adult, but cast a child in the role. It is a role that Lieberher brings to life though, and not the first time he’s embodied a part of this nature after Midnight Special, and he has a certain sense of authority and you do adhere to his intellect. Both kids in this instance impress and Watts does all she can with what’s given to her, but she’s been dealt a tough hand. The film is just completely ridiculous, and while some films are horrible to sit through due to their tedium and sheer inanity, the same can’t be said here. No, The Book of Henry is almost beguiling in its awfulness, it’s compelling. This is not a bad film because nothing happens, it’s a bad film because too many things do.

The film, in spite of the themes being explored, struggles to have an emotional impact on the viewer, and it’s one of those narratives where really, it’s harder not to cry – and yet somehow doable. This is just emblematic of a film that hits all of the wrong notes, and plays them all in the wrong order. The very final shot is Henry’s book in the furnace, burning slowly. Just a shame that it wasn’t the screenplay.

The Book of Henry is released on June 23rd.