“Ben Is Back” is a drama film written and directed by Peter Hedges about a young man who has been in recovery from drug addiction suddenly returning home for Christmas much to the chagrin of his sister and step-father. His mother is delighted to see him but is reminded of the caution she needs to have considering the heart-wrenching fallout from the kid’s misdeeds.
Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, and Courtney B. Vance are at the head of this talented cast. Vance and Roberts play the suspicious step-father and doting mother, respectively.
I actually appreciated that this movie went in unexpected directions throughout. I felt quite a bit of tension wondering if young Ben has already relapsed or was about to relapse. Kudos to Peter Hedges for handling that quite masterfully.
There were a few peculiar writing decisions such as a snatched family pet becoming the catalyst for a quest embarked on by mother and son. This where the mother gets more of an idea of what Ben was willing to do to get high and is quite appalled.
This probably goes without saying considering the reputation of the cast, but I will note it regardless. The performances were quite strong. The actors playing Ben’s younger siblings also managed quite well.
There were some aspects of the film that didn’t seem all that credible, probably because there were certain sequences that felt a little rushed.
I did double-check this so it appears that Lucas Hedges is actually the son of the writer/director. Sometimes nepotism is the right way to go.
I would have liked to have known a little more background of this family at times. The ending was a little too abrupt for my liking, but that is all I will say about that.
It’s one of those films with a tough subject matter in exploring the chaos and heartbreak experienced by the family members of drug addicts. Not every scene or syllable works in this movie, but most of it turns out well. The movie does manage to avoid several predictable and cliched directions that many in this genre tend to take.
If one doesn’t mind a little more weight and emotional upheaval in their cinematic viewing, this is a pretty well done piece of work.