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The Book of Henry confounds at L.A. Film Festival premiere

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Fresh off the heels of one studio blockbuster and gearing up for another, Colin Trevorrow is heading back into theaters with The Book of Henry.

The director’s third theatrically released feature premiered as the opening night film at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival on Wednesday. “It is so important, in a business that can get a little heavy into the business side sometimes, for us to remember why we’re here and why we started and why we do this,” he said while introducing the film, which has gotten both earnestly praised and brutally panned, especially for its significant shifts in tone and genre.

The movie comes sandwiched between two major franchise titles in Trevorrow’s filmography — two years after Jurassic World’s record-smashing June 2015 bow and two years ahead of Star Wars: Episode IX’s projected May 2019 debut. But don’t let that studio résumé fool you. “I started as an independent filmmaker, I still feel like an independent filmmaker, and you’re about to see an independent film,” said Trevorrow, who first broke out in 2012 with the Sundance comedy Safety Not Guaranteed.

The Book of Henry follows a single mother (Naomi Watts), who lives with her two sons, brilliant 11-year-old Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and his adorable, bespectacled little brother, Peter (Room’s Jacob Tremblay). When Henry realizes that the girl next door, Christina (Dance Moms star and Sia’s mini-me Maddie Ziegler), is being abused by her stepfather, he devises an elaborate plan — to be enacted by his mother — to rescue and avenge her.

The three young leads, as well as their grown-up costars Dean Norris and Bobby Moynihan, joined the director onstage, with Tremblay, as always, stealing the show. “My little man!” Trevorrow said by way of introducing him. “I hadn’t seen Room when I signed up this young actor for this film; I didn’t see it until after we were done. And I couldn’t have been more right,” he enthused. Tremblay’s response? “I’m not that little.”

Trevorrow revealed that the film had been shot in 35 days, admitting, “for an indie movie, that’s a lot.” But for someone who is preparing to shoot an entry in the Star Wars saga, “it was quick, and it was back to basics.”

The Book of Henry hits theaters Friday. Check out the trailer above, and the mystified Twitter reactions to the film below.