A subtle emotional journey impeccably orchestrated by director Mike Nichols and acutely well acted, Regarding Henry has a back-to-basics message that’s bound to strike a responsive chord in the troubled aftermath of the 1980s. In a way, the pic is a variation on the old story of the husband who goes down to the corner for a pack of cigarettes and never comes back.
The controlling, intolerant Henry Turner (Harrison Ford) who steps out of his Manhattan brownstone late one night for a pack of Merits, only to become the victim of a mindless, hysterical violence, is certainly not the same man who has to be coaxed back home from the hospital after a lengthy rehabilitation. Henry has to start from scratch to regain such basic capacities as how to read, take a walk or make love to his wife.
The grace of the script by 23-year-old Jeffrey Abrams is that it doesn’t contrive a practical alternative for Henry. The change in his character is story enough. On the other hand, there is the dimension contributed by Annette Bening’s interpretation of an elegant society wife who bravely becomes Henry’s truest friend when his former confidence deserts him.
In a role as far removed as possible from her cunning Myra in The Grifters, Bening sets a shining new standard of performance. Ford operates with his usual firstrate precision, pushing the super-competent Henry slyly into the realm of humor, and suggesting the physical timidity and mental struggles of the debilitated Henry without overdoing it.