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Review: Ben Is Back

Ben Is Back
9 10

PLOT: A recovering addict unexpectedly returns home early from rehabilitation on Christmas Eve.

REVIEW: This past year has been quite good for both Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges. Whether it is Ms. Roberts layered performance in the series Homecoming, or Mr. Hedges sublime work in BOY ERASED - as well as MID90s - the two continue to impress with the heart wrenching  BEN IS BACK. This story of an addict coming home, only to face the demons of his past is thoughtful, challenging and compassionate. Written and directed by Peter Hedges, this is an honest and direct look at how addiction can affect not only the user, but the family that struggles to support them as well. Yet at its heart, it is far more than just a sentimental story of a family coping. Somewhere deep inside the disturbing subject matter is a mother’s love, pure and perhaps even a bit hopeful. There is much to admire about this stunning family drama.

Julia Roberts is Holly Burns, a loving mother to Lacey (Mila Fowler), Liam (Jakari Fraser) and Ivy (Kathryn Newton). And then there is Ben (Lucas Hedges). The movie begins with Holly and family returning home from church. What she finds once they arrive home is her son waiting outside. The young man, who has been in rehabilitation, has decided to come home early to spend Christmas with his family. Holly’s current husband, Neal Beeby (Courtney B. Vance), is concerned about the situation, but Holly is insistent that they allow her son to spend the holiday with them. Yet even she mistrusts just how clean and sober he is as she hides all the prescriptions and alcohol that are readily available in the house. After the family returns from church later on that evening, they realize that somebody may not be so forgiving of Ben’s past, this leads to a dark realization for not only Holly, but Ben as well.

ben is back julia roberts lucas hedges peter hedges courtney b vance addiction drama 2018 joblo.comThis is an exceptional film. Much of the beauty of this comes from its truthfulness. This is a family having to deal with a recovering addict. Hedges script is layered with poignant moments of a young man struggling to survive clean, and a mother willing to do anything to help. Even when the film sets the two on their own as they search for the family dog, the story remains grounded in reality. One of the best sequences involves a former family doctor they run into at a shopping center. It is a moment where Holly is given some time to speak up for the son she loves, even if her words are cruel and downright vicious. This is real. If you are a parent, there is a good chance that you would want to do and say nearly the exact same thing in a similar circumstance.

As the mother, Julia Roberts gives one of her most powerful performances to date. Holly is a good and loving mom, one that makes a lot of mistakes yet she tries hard to recover from the family past. She is fierce, loyal, sympathetic and flawed yet still convinced that she has the strength to do the right thing. She is constantly at odds with her husband Neal because of her son. Even her own daughter Ivy is concerned that her mother is far too open to a situation they may not be properly prepared for. There is not a single moment you don’t believe that Holly is hurting, yet she is willing to do whatever it takes for Ben. It is impossible not to feel the despair and pain that his family is going through.

ben is back julia roberts lucas hedges peter hedges courtney b vance drama addiction 2018 joblo.comAnd then there is Lucas Hedges. Even since his breakthrough performance in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, the actor seems to be on a bit of a roll. Here, his work is so impressive that we as an audience even question his mysterious motives for coming home. It is a quiet, yet all too real take on a young man that may or may not truly want to escape his addictions. The relationship between Hedges and Roberts is undeniably deep, and the two play off of each other with ease. Even when the story might have felt a bit overly melodramatic, the performances, direction and the script manage to keep things believable. As the movie plays on, we learn just how broken Ben had become, and why he needed help.

BEN IS BACK is a quiet storm. Peter Hedges has made a profoundly moving feature that manages to take this simple story and create one of the most effective movies about addiction he could. Lucas Hedges - Peter’s real life son - is heartbreakingly convincing in the title role. Then there is Julia Roberts. The actress is terrific as a mother who must do whatever it takes to help her son. She would even risk her own well being and safety to protect him from himself and others. As the story progresses, a lesser cast and filmmaker may have not kept the reality of the situation intact. Thankfully the culmination of talent involved keeps this story grounded and truthful, even at its emotional conclusion. Layered, thoughtful and heartbreakingly real, BEN IS BACK is one of the best films of the year.

Source: JoBlo.com

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