A lawyer focused on his work,
Henry Turner is a jerk.
His daughter’s mishaps only irk,
For he cannot relate.
While out one evening, Henry’s shot;
His damaged brain must be retaught
The simple tasks that it forgot,
For he’s a now blank slate.
A therapist named Bradley stays
With Henry through his hardest days,
Encouraging with jolly praise
When Henry makes progress.
Recovery’s a distant hope,
And his wife Sarah has to cope
And manage the financial slope
Since they’re now earning less.
Though Henry ends up walking tall,
He can’t remember much at all,
And though at first he wants to stall,
He goes back home at last.
Soon back at work out of respect,
He’s like a child, which they suspect.
With Ritz his favorite art subject,
He’s not like in the past.
But with his daughter Rachel, he
Connects again, which helps him be
A friend and dad with courtesy,
Which she had always lacked.
Since Henry cannot just ignore
His former dealings, he learns more
And doesn’t like himself before
Or what he did, in fact.
Though home life’s happy, it is there
He learns of Sarah’s past affair.
He’s more perturbed when others share
That he had secrets too.
To move on from regret and spite,
He quits and tries to set things right.
The Turner family’s seen the light
And will start over new.

This is a film to which my VC introduced me, and over time I’ve begun liking it even more than she does. While he will always be best-known for his crowd-pleasing action roles, I can honestly say that this is Harrison Ford’s best dramatic performance. Directed by Mike Nichols, Regarding Henry is one of a hard-to-define subgenre that I can only call a “quiet movie,” a “sleeper” devoid of explosions or extreme dramatic tension but rife with endearing characterization that leaves me with that coveted I-enjoyed-that-movie reaction.

The beginning is a bit slow and doesn’t quite give a full picture of Henry’s relationships with his wife and daughter, but ultimately his past self is less important than who he becomes. Once the attack occurs (he’s shot by John Leguizamo), the film becomes a fond testimonial for the role physical therapists play in the shattered lives of the injured. Bradley, played by Bill Nunn of Sister Act, displays a saintly patience and love for his job and those he assists, and it’s no wonder that Henry didn’t want to leave him at first.

Harrison Ford’s acting extends from the usual businessman role he’s done before to natural childish fear and wonder during the hard road of recovery. He relearns walking, talking, eating, and all the things we take for granted. While he brings these struggles to life, Annette Bening also excels at illustrating the overwhelming distress at seeing her ever-professional husband reduced to a drooling invalid.

Ford’s hesitant, nuanced performance, sometimes funny, often poignant, is the heart of the film, and by the time he reconnects with his family, we’re meant to regard his trauma as an unexpected improvement in their lives. A twist near the end clarifying some obvious product placement was not well-received by some critics, who considered it almost comical, but Henry’s reaction to it is ultimately satisfying, ending the film on a singularly feel-good note.

Praise was reserved and accolades were few, but Regarding Henry remains my favorite non-action Harrison Ford film. Perhaps my partiality is due to a major but hidden Lost alert: the great J. J. Abrams himself wrote the screenplay (one of his first, credited as Jeffrey Abrams) and even appears briefly as a delivery boy when Henry wanders out of his apartment. While some may consider Regarding Henry overly sentimental and I’ve heard it described as “get shot in the head and become a better person,” it’s a sensitive, well-acted drama that I sincerely hope will not be forgotten.

Best line: (Henry, explaining why he quit his job and echoing an earlier exchange) “Well, I had enough, so I said, ‘When.’”

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 6 (just the shooting scene)
Originality: 8
Watchability: 9
Other (language): -1
TOTAL: 49 out of 60

Next: #128 – The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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