Friday, December 7, 2018

Movie with Abe: Ben is Back

Ben is Back
Directed by Peter Hedges
Released December 7, 2018

Addiction can devastate relationships. When a person values getting high more than being with someone else, tensions are created that are rarely easy to resolve. Letting someone go while they get the help they need can be difficult, especially if the nature of the relationship is one where the primal instinct is to protect the one in need. When a parent sees their child is suffering, even if it is at their own hands, they will likely stop at nothing to do everything they can to rescue them from their miserable fate.

Holly (Julia Roberts) comes home on Christmas to find her son Ben (Lucas Hedges) has returned, allegedly released from rehab for twenty-four hours on the recommendation of his sponsor. Her older daughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton) and husband Neal (Courtney B. Vance) are concerned that Ben being home is dangerous both for them and his recovery, while her two younger children jump at the chance to see their big brother again. As Ben struggles with acclimating to being home, Holly monitors him closely, determined not to let her son slip and disappear forever from her life.

This is the second film featuring an exasperated parent dealing with a drug-addicted son to be released this year, following “Beautiful Boy” with Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. While this film is not based directly on a true story, it follows the same sort of pattern, with Holly channeling passion into her support for her son rather than the more logic-based approach of her spouse, who is not nearly as forgiving. Holly is a formidable character, one who is quick to anger, even more so when it involves the livelihood of her family, paired with a sympathetic teenager who is aware of just how unreliable his own words are.

Roberts, who made her TV debut with “Homecoming” last month, has a great vehicle here that allows her to deliver her strongest performance in a number of years, playing to her strengths and nailing her character’s energy. Hedges, who also stars in “Boy Erased,” continues to pick great roles, though it’s hard for him to match the level of his “Manchester by the Sea” breakthrough. Teaming with his real-life father, director Peter Hedges, results in a film that doesn’t offer much beyond what can be seen and assumed from watching its trailer, a decent but predictable narrative with good performances at its center.


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