Posted Mar 14 2019

Ben Is Back - This Movie Just About Rocks

Dir: Peter Hedges

Starring Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B Vance, Kathryn Newton

One week it’s Timothee Chalamet playing a drug addicted young son of a nice ordinary middle class family, the next it’s Lucas Hedges in the same spot. Arguably the two finest young American actors around right now – and here they both in slave to the opioid.

Although Ben Is Back (written and directed by Lucas’ dad, Peter) is something of a different beast from the recent Beautiful Boy, much more low key and understated for the most part, more indie in both look and feel certainly. What it does very well is capture the minutiae of living with an addict and an addiction. Confined to a single less than 24 hour period, Ben comes back on Christmas Eve, essentially to try and reconnect and apologise to his family. Hedges (the younger) keeps Ben difficult to read however. Much like his mother, you hope for his best intentions, but are never really sure if you can trust him.

The film makes a sharp turn into what is almost a form of melodrama at one point though, and the resultant tale of a stolen dog and a tense drug deal almost threatens to unbalance it.

But such a tonal shift is redeemed by its two extremely impressive central performances. Hedges is never less than convincing as he struggles to find some form of redemption. But it is the always wonderful Roberts who dominates as a mother torn between love, loyalty and a desperate need to believe in her own child. She is complex and heartbreaking, and reminds you that it’s been simply too long since she had a role like this to get her – always perfect  – teeth into.

Kathryn Newton also impresses as Ben’s younger sister, trapped between resentment of and love for her troubled brother.


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