‘BOOK OF HENRY’ director writes a new chapter in filmmaking


Preston Barta // Features Editor

Filmmakers have to shoulder a lot of responsibility when they take on blockbuster entertainment. Oftentimes it can demand two to three years of their lives, if not more. So it’s no wonder why top-tier directors feel the need to sneak in smaller-scale projects between the ones that leave them rather burnt out.

This shows remarkably well in the career of director Colin Trevorrow, who made his feature debut with the 2012 indie film SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. The wonderfully quirky title obviously made an impression on Hollywood, because Trevorrow followed it by helming JURASSIC WORLD. And now he’s developing the ninth episode in the STAR WARS saga. So if you’re in need of a good pick-me-up to see dreams do come true, look no further than Trevorrow.

However, before Trevorrow travels to a galaxy far, far away, he’s releasing the low-key drama THE BOOK OF HENRY. Starring Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay (ROOM), it tells of a family working together to conquer an evil deed surrounding their neighbor.

“I can see how my career as a filmmaker seems so schizophrenic on the surface, bouncing from smaller films to bigger ones. But to me, these movies have a consistency to them,” Trevorrow said when he stopped in Dallas during a publicity tour. “They feel like big, mythic stories in packages of various sizes.”

Trevorrow explained how SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, a film that deals with very real human issues, is, at the end of the day, about time travel. JURASSIC WORLD is massive and magical in every sense. Need we mention Star Wars?

“THE BOOK OF HENRY feels like an old Bible story: When the hero can’t finish the job, so another must carry it on in their stead. I found it big enough that it could not just hold people’s interest, but also engage them in a way that big movies can.”

Jacob Tremblay as Peter, Jaeden Lieberher as Henry, and Naomi Watts as Susan star in Colin Trevorrow’s ‘THE BOOK OF HENRY.’ Courtesy of Focus Features.

On top of striving to make original films or new versions of something we love, it’s necessary to Trevorrow to push himself and never settle for safe. Whether he’s crafting a story about dino-battles or lightsaber duels, he wants to take his films to new territories.

Trevorrow confessed THE BOOK OF HENRY was “a huge challenge,” because of a genre twist that happens midway through the narrative. For audiences, it’s a make-or-break moment. (Steer clear of the spoiler-y trailer, if curious.)

“I was always afraid when it would come to the movie being judged by critics who understand the structure and needs of a narrative so deeply that it would be harder to sell that tonal change that the movie goes through,” Trevorrow admitted. “Keeping it balanced was absolutely the No. 1 goal the entire time. From the development of the script, to shooting it, editing and to very recently — I took a scene out that may have violated the covenant you have with an audience.”

While my personal opinion of the film is not in Trevorrow’s favor, there’s no denying he’s an ambitious filmmaker who experiments with film in such a way that most wouldn’t dare, and for that, I commend him.

“It’s a style of storytelling that fits the moment, because we’re getting so accustomed to things changing violently around us, going from a perfectly good mood to realizing the most horrible thing you could imagine has happened. It can be jarring in movies, but I think it reflects our life and times.”

So perhaps in time, THE BOOK OF HENRY will settle with me a little easier, or maybe you’ll see something I did not. Either way, it’s an important film to see just to be a part of the conversation surrounding Trevorrow’s closing chapter to the STAR WARS sequel trilogy, which I had to ask about.

“I read [Rian Johnson’s] script long before he shot THE LAST JEDI, and now I’ve seen it. That gift that we all get to be able to walk in and experience STAR WARS for the first time has been revoked from me. It’s the only thing I regret about having this job, and I love this job. But I assure you, we are working diligently to make sure we present something fans will love.”

THE BOOK OF HENRY is now playing.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.