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“Ben is Back” A Compelling Story




Review by John Delia

Very deep and disturbing, the movie Ben is Back takes you into the life of a boy who deals with his drug addiction with lies and deceit. Although it’s a work of fiction, it could easily be a true story in today’s addictive world. Excellent acting by the main characters and a script worthy of award, it’s a film you don’t want to miss. If you like a good compelling drama that presses on your heartstrings, this film’s perfect. Ladies, bring a few tissues.

Ben (Lucas Hedges) shows up at his home on Christmas Eve unexpectedly from drug rehab. He’s been at the facility for 77 days and has not been able to have visitations due to the severity of his drug dependency. Arriving home following a rehearsal for a Christmas Play with her three children his mother Holly’s (Julia Roberts) astonished to see Ben in the driveway waiting for her. Surprised, but suspicious she greets him with a welcoming hug and looks to him for answers. Wanting him to give her believable reasons for his being allowed to be home for the holiday, she rebukes her teenage daughter Ivy’s (Kathryn Newton) doubts that he is telling the truth.

Julia Roberts as Holly and Lucas Hedges as Ben in BEN IS BACK Photos credit Mark Schafer

Keeping them off balance, Ben tells some funny stories and pushes to mingle with the youngsters in the snow. But, Ivy, extremely apprehensive that Ben may be getting himself in trouble, feels she should get to the bottom of why he’s allowed home. Using his sponsor as the reason why he decided to come home, Holly blames his arrival on herself and wants to make the best of it.

Courtney B. Vance as Neil and Julia Roberts as Holly in BEN IS BACK Photos credit Mark Schafer

Then there’s all the haunts that Ben left behind that starts to creep up around him. Director and writer Peter Hedges fashions the movie to take place over 24 hours creating situations that pop up as the day and night progresses. From little embarrassing incidents to his sordid past catching up with Ben, his crafty film offers a very compelling story that could have come from the news columns of today’s drug rampant society.

The acting is critical in a film like this as the audience has to believe what they see on the screen as real and genuine. Lucas Hedges does a terrific job of creating Ben as a teen who has “found” his way only to get caught up in the world of drugs that he helped to create. Ben’s a persuasive person, but also a loose cannon putting himself first as most addicts do to get what they “need”. No matter if family or even the house pet may challenge his decisions, in the long run his final act is the most meaningful.

Courtney B Vance, Lucas Hedges, and Julia Roberts in BEN IS BACK Photos credit Mark Schafer

As Holly the mother who thinks she has been rewarded by God with her son home for Christmas, Julia Roberts gives a heart wrenching performance. She’s a mother first and with Ben being her first born she has never accepted the reasons why her son found himself going through drug withdrawal and psychological therapy. Although not the cause of her son’s involvement with drugs, she blames herself on his falling into the abyss. With so many possibilities of actors for an Oscar in a supporting role, she may not make the top 5, but it won’t be because of her acting here as it’s believable and heartfelt.

Ben is Back has been rated R for language throughout and some drug use.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good drama that’s totally captivating. (4 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, Kathryn Newton, Michael Esper
Directed and written by: Peter Hedges
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some drug use
Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Opening Date: December 21, 2018
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions
Released in: Standard

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