First Hit: The story and acting was wonderful and deeply touching.
Susan Carpenter (Naomi Watts) is a single mother of two boys Henry (Jaden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Susan is a waitress at a small café and her co-worker and best friend is Shelia (Sarah Silverman). Together they are tackling life as it comes to them with an occasional glass of wine.
Early on we learn that Henry is an extraordinary boy. Smart, way beyond his years, he’s about things being fair. When his brother gets picked on by a bully at school, Henry is there. When he figures out that his neighbor and classmate Christina (Maddie Ziegler) is being sexually abused by her step-father Glenn Sickleman (Dean Norris) who happens to be the Police Commissioner in their town, he wants to do something about it.
Henry calls help lines and speaks to the school principal but she says that there isn’t anything to do because of Glenn’s connections and that Glenn is looked up to in the community. Henry is focused and incensed that nobody is helping his sweet neighbor.
Henry is the adult in this family and shows this because he's invested their money wisely and his mom has a growing nest egg. Also, while in a grocery store one day, the family sees a man mistreating a young woman and Henry wants to help her out, but Susan tells him it isn’t their business. He protests by saying apathy is the enemy of society.
Although Henry is a genius, he suffers from headaches and one day falls into a seizure. In the hospital, they learn he’s got a brain tumor and will soon die. He makes Peter promise to give their mom a red book and instructs his mom to quit her job, pay attention to their stocks and she and Peter will be financially okay.
The book contains detailed step by step instructions on how to save Christina from her step-father. At first Susan is reluctant, but after she witnesses Christina’s plight one night while looking out the window, she commits to making a difference.
I liked how this film developed the characters. It gave them each a way to express and represent their part in this touching story.
Watts was amazing as the mother of these two boys. Her ability to be smart, dependent and trusting was amazing. Lieberher was fantastic as Henry. He embodied the role of brilliance and his thoughtfulness even while passing on early in life. I was transfixed watching him. Tremblay was outstanding as the younger brother. Although not with Henry’s brilliance, he was extremely smart in a tenacious way. He was amazingly loveable. Silverman was perfect as the off the wall friend whose has a heart of gold. Ziegler was very good as the girl next door who had a horrible secret she was keeping. Norris was very strong in the unenviable role as the step-father. Gregg Hurwitz wrote a strong and insightful screenplay. Colin Trevorrow did a masterful job of creating a wonderful film to watch.
Overall: This is a well thought out sensitive film.