I don’t think anybody has actually seen a Harrison Ford movie where he doesn’t play Han Solo, Indiana Jones or Richard Kimble. I’m entirely convinced the masses of us who go to the cinema expect him to appear in nothing more than Star Wars and Indiana Jones. So when Regarding Henry was added to Netflix, a drama starring Harrison Ford, I just knew I had to review it. I’ve reviewed all of the Jones adventures and all of his space shooter movies, so I feel it’s a nice break from pace to see if he can stretch his dramatic acting chops a bit.
Boy, does Harrison Ford know how to act. He’s a tremendous actor, and to be quite honest one of the best working actors of his generation. No stranger to a dramatic role or two, his turn in Regarding Henry is some of his best, and maybe his most basic work. Ford plays Henry, a man who, after being shot in the head, struggles to recover from his injuries. As far as stories go it’s really not the most intricate or interesting movie, it’s really straight forward to be honest. Hell, it’s so straight forward, it’s almost boring.
So yeah, the plot may not be the most interesting piece of writing in the world, far from it to be honest with you. But it’s the cast that make it work so extremely well, and they don’t really have a hard time of doing it. Ford for the most part is a prop, more than he is an actor in this movie. He doesn’t have too many large lines of dialogue, and it follows his progression of health over the course of the movie. Instead of giving him large setpieces, the movie focuses on his recovery, but more of the reactions of the people around him, which is true for any illness or ailment, the impact it has on others is just as interesting to see unfold.
Even when he’s moping around, barely being able to walk, Ford still manages to give off a truly superb performance. It’s extremely emotive to say the least, but that’s because personally I find it uncomfortable to watch people struggle on such a grand scale. Still, Ford’s performance throughout is absolutely amazing. In essence he plays two characters, before gunshot and after gunshot are to very different Henry’s, and this is made clear in the early parts of the film in some slightly cliche ways. The resentment Henry’s daughter feels for her father and the general breakdown of Henry’s marriage is all well directed and planted early on in the film.
Speaking of the daughter and wife characters, they’re great supporting actors. Annette Bening stars alongside Ford as Henry’s wife, Sarah. Bening is a great actor, her stint in American Beauty was solid enough, and in Regarding Henry she plays much of a similar role. Mikki Allen is also in the movie, serving as Henry and Sarah’s son, but like most child actors during the early 1990s, gives a completely forgettable performance. Honestly, I’d forgotten this movie had given Henry a daughter, and at first I thought it was their son. They don’t have a son, I think my TV may be on the way out though.
Most drama movies that are similar to Regarding Henry always rely on reactionary pieces from those that centre around our main protagonist. But the main protagonist is disliked so strongly, it only serves as a unique and interesting spin on an otherwise cliched story. The fact that Henry’s personality changes so dramatically is really well done and absolutely the most interesting part of the entire movie.
Emotional manipulation is never fun, especially when a film tries to get away with it. Without a doubt, Regarding Henry is irresponsible in how it tries to connect with its audience through tears rather than through decent writing. There’s a whole slew of scenes showing Henry’s hardships of recovery, and they don’t really have that big an impact given that they’re ushered in within the first twenty minutes of viewing. At least from there it can focus on Henry’s recovery, so it’s not as if the movie is content to dwell on the hardships of recovery, and for that reason I can forgive it for focusing so blatantly on it in the first few moments.
Nothing comes from the direction either, it’s exactly what you’d expect from an early 90s movie. Very bland, nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy. The same goes for a lot of the technical aspects in this movie, they more or less focus on the story, but the problem there is that the story isn’t all that interesting in the latter half of the movie. Hell, it’s one of the rare occasions that some decent direction may have perked the film up a little bit and made it that tiny bit more interesting.
People really hated this movie upon its release, and I’m not entirely sure why that is. Sure, it’s not the best drama film around but at best it’s a solid portrayal from Ford, who gives us enjoyable work whenever he steps on screen. Maybe people hate this movie so much given that it’s so ham fisted in its emotive core, and to be fair that is cause for concern throughout the movie. The direction is noticeably solid and for all the holes in the plot, it’s still a decent family drama that can definitely be enjoyed by a multitude of different audiences.
With some solid performances all round and a story that hasn’t really been touched upon before, Regarding Henry is a forgotten relic of the early 1990s and it’s a shame it is so forgotten given it’s actually rather enjoyable. As much as I’ve slated the plot and writing, it’s a very interesting story helmed by an incredible Harrison Ford performance, who is supported throughout by Annette Bening. It’s some incredible stuff here and there, but for the most part a rather forgettable experience. Enjoy it while you can remember it.