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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Regarding Henry is a slow-paced, quiet 1991 drama directed by Mike Nichols. Kids, teens, and Harrison Ford fans from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, or even from some of his tense thriller-mysteries, won't find much to hold their interest here. The story about a man's physical, mental, and emotional recovery from paralysis and amnesia is very personal to the character of Henry, so there's not much to relate to if you're not a mature adult. The only violence is a couple of gunshots that show blood starting to spread on the victim and brief background blood and gore in a hospital triage area. Strong language includes "a--hole" and variations of "s--t." One otherwise very positive character engages in what now could be considered sexual harassment by calling out to passing women and commenting on their appearance. Married adults kiss and caress once with open shirts and are shown in bed nude, but only the man's chest is shown. The overall messages and role models are positive, about changing yourself and your life, doing what makes you feel good about yourself and others, and the value and happiness in strengthening family bonds.
What's the story?
In REGARDING HENRY, New York attorney Henry Turner (Harrison Ford) is the superstar of a high-powered law firm, where his win-at-all costs attitude and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic has earned him wealth and acclaim. But it's also alienated him from his wife (Annette Bening) and daughter, whom he barely seems to know. Life can turn on a dime, and one day Henry wakes up in a hospital unable to move, speak, or remember anything. On the long, slow road to recovery he starts to put the pieces of his old life back together, and he doesn't like what he learns about it. But if he doesn't want to pick up where he left off, where does that leave him and his family?
Is it any good?
Despite having so much going for it in terms of cast and crew (look for a very young J.J. Abrams cameo), this drama never really makes much emotional impact. Mike Nichols' now-classic opening shot -- starting from on high and slowly zooming in on the action over most of the opening credits -- tells you everything you need to know about Regarding Henry: It's going to take its time unfolding. It's a personal story about one man, and Ford admirably plays a very different character than we're used to seeing. Bening shines, and the supporting cast is fine, but kids and teens won't find much to relate to and may grow impatient with the pace.
Nichols keeps the audience as emotionally distant from Henry's family as Henry himself is. You can argue that it allows us to connect with, or at least understand, Henry better, but it also limits our ways in, our chances to connect both with the movie as a whole, and with Henry's world as it starts to widen during his recovery.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Henry changes what he doesn't like about himself and his life in Regarding Henry. Is there anything about yourself or your life you wish you could change? How might you do it?
Before he was injured, a lot of people would say Henry had it all. Did he really? Do you wish you could have his life?
What do you imagine the future holds for Henry and his family? How would you like to see them, say, five years later?
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