Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 14, 2018

Son shine!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

December 14, 2018

Cast: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Kathryn Newton

Director: Peter Hedges

In Ben is Back, Julia Roberts plays a mother named Holly caught in a terrible dilemma.

It’s Christmas Eve when Ben (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly arrives home. He’s back from a de-addiction facility, only 77 days sober, and his family watches him warily. Holly is overjoyed but there’s a cautious side too, one that hides her jewellery and medicines, putting temptation away. Ben’s sister plainly distrusts him, while his stepdad Neal is just fed up paying for Ben’s treatment by taking out a second mortgage.

Director Peter Hedges uses just the 24 hours that Ben is back at home to piece together a tense drama. We learn of a horrific past and perceive the dangers that still lurk around for Ben, and by association his family. Is Ben lying or telling the truth? Will he slip back into addiction? When the family dog is abducted Holly and Ben set off to find him, and from this point on the film heads in a direction you hadn’t anticipated. It’s still suspenseful and moves briskly, but all bets are off. Holly worries for Ben, yet she drops her guard often and it’s frustrating to watch.

Thankfully, these rough edges are glossed over through solid performances from both Julia Roberts and especially Lucas Hedges, who happens to be the director’s son. The young actor, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Manchester By The Sea, brings unmistakable vulnerability to the part of Ben, tortured by his addiction. Julia Roberts as Holly soldiers on; she’s determined to see her son through this, doing whatever it takes. You can feel her desperation, even as she sacrifices her own morals to save him.

I’m going with three out of five for Ben is Back. It’s a heartbreaking film about addiction and how it affects families. Doesn’t say very much that’s new, but benefits considerably from its central performances.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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