By Liselotte Vanophem
‘One more can’t harm and after that, I stop’. That sentence has probably been on everyone’s lips. Whether it’s about having one more bar of chocolate, one glass of wine or one cigarette. But what if that ‘one more’ can do more harm than expected? What if that one keeps on coming until it becomes a second, third, etc. one. Well, then it becomes an addiction and that’s never good. Especially when it involves every drug you can ever imagine.
With this in mind, director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”) decided to dedicate his latest work “Ben is Back” to the devastating consequences of drugs which resulted into a moving and poignant film led by the stunning duo Lucas Hedges-Julia Roberts.
Christmas time. The time of the year we want to be together with the entire family and that’s all Holly Burns-Beeby (Julia Roberts) wants too. Despite enjoying the festive holidays (and the typical songs and plays) with her three kids and her husband Neal (Courtney B. Vance), her life still feels incomplete. Until a Christmas miracle occurs. Her long lost fourth child Ben (Lucas Hedges) is sitting on her doorstep. While excitedly embracing him, she also knows why she hasn’t seen him for a long time. There’s a dark cloud hanging over his head in the form of a drugs addiction.
After different heated arguments between Holly and the rest of the family, Ben is allowed to stay for 24 hours on the condition he does not leave Holly’s sight. At first, everything seems going to be the right way: A happy family, a drugs-free Ben and the jolly Christmas fun. However, it doesn’t take long before that white devilishly substance makes his way to Ben again. Will he be able to resist or will he put his life and his family in danger, again?
That doubt is one of the elements that make you want to watch this film until the very end. Not only about whether Ben will be able to keep away from temptation but also about why he has been away in the first place. Pills, booze, something else? It’s also the doubt about the people he meets. Are they drug dealers he used to work for, his clients or a bystander who tragically had to discover the impact of drugs?
It seems that Ben isn’t the only one with a shady past so just sit back, see and discover more dirty secrets than you should expect. You might think you’re going to watch another “Beautiful Boy” because of the very similar topic but “Ben is Back” has certainly made a name for itself.
That’s mostly because of the terrific duo Lucas Hedges-Julia Roberts. Hedges was already marvelous in films such as “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“, “Lady Bird” and “Manchester by the Sea” and he can add another sensational and intense performance to that list. Whether it’s as Ben, the boy who’s finally back on the right track again celebrating with his family, or as Ben, the man who’s the slave of his own addiction, we all believe it.
Julia Roberts (“Wonder“, “August: Osage County”) portrays stunningly the mother who loves her son to bits but who also have to deal with insecurity, uncertainty, and fear about him. Because of this, the powerful relationship with her husband is on the brink of collapsing but when the need is high, love becomes stronger.
Courtney B. Vance (“American Crime Story”, “Love and Action in Chicago”) turns out to be the perfect support for Hedges and Roberts. Other remarkable acting come from Kathryn Newton (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“, “Lady Bird“) as Ben’s sisters, Rachel Bay Jones (“God Friended Me”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) as a grieving mother and friend of Holly’s who’s has seen the impact of drugs far too close and Michael Esper (“Trust”, “The Family”) in a sinister role as Clayton, Ben’s former supplier. “Former” might not be that former all.
While this film has some incredibly funny moments in it, it still remains a very dark one. Mostly because of the story-line but also due to the very fitting cinematography. Combine this with great acting from the entire cast and you get a splendid inside in how much damage one little moment of weakness can do. Both physically and mentally.
Originally published at www.ocmoviereviews.com on February 21, 2019.