One last tearjerking family drama is here to twist up all your emotions before the end of 2018. BEN IS BACK follows a strong year of movies which dive into a wide range of difficult parent/child relationships — from BEAUTIFUL BOY to BOY ERASED and WHITE BOY RICK. Now BEN IS BACK brings something new to the table.
The film, which in theaters now, explores the relationship between a mother and her heroin addict son. It follows her struggle as she tries to help him stay clean. Directed by Peter Hedges and starring the director’s son, Lucas Hedges, and Julia Roberts, BEN IS BACK is moving and powerful. Here’s everything you need to know about the film.
A Mother’s Love
The core of BEN IS BACK is the relationship between Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) and her son Ben (Lucas Hedges). Ben has struggled with heroin addiction for years. On Christmas Eve, Ben shows up at his family home, surprising Holly, not to mention the rest of the family. Still, she’s thrilled to have her son back from rehab — especially because it’s Christmas — so Holly welcomes him with open arms.
The difficult hours that follow lead Holly to question that choice. Her commitment to her son is put to the test as she learns new things about the son she thought she knew. As mother and son try to navigate their home life, both wary of each other, Ben becomes entangled in a dangerous game. BEN IS BACK evolves from a character drama into something slightly different as the story is fully revealed.
One Day At A Time
BEN IS BACK stands apart from other films that tackle drug addiction thanks to the personal relationship writer and director Peter Hedges has with his project. He recently explained:
“So, my favorite actor ever had just died, a good friend had died, and a family member nearly died. I come from a family rocked and riddled by and from addiction. You can’t open a newspaper or turn on the news or drive through any town in this country and not see the debilitating impact of opioids and heroin. It’s an epidemic and we’re not talking enough about it or doing enough about it and I felt like with my skill set I could tell a story about one family over the course of one day and that, in doing that, if I did that as truthfully as I could, as fearlessly as I could, maybe I would help shine light on aspects of this epidemic that maybe people haven’t seen before, or show it in a new way.“
Some of his motivation to make the film comes from a very specific personal relationship — one in which the film’s primary dynamic was reversed. He explained in another interview:
“I knew from my own mother’s addiction how addicts keep secrets. My mother was an alcoholic and she got sober when I was 15 and I would go to many meetings with her, a ton of AA meetings, where she was the speaker. In those meetings you traditionally tell your story and she never told her story. I realized years later, after she had died, I woke up in the middle of the night and I’m like, “Oh, she didn’t want me to know. So I thought, “What if he has a story that he doesn’t want to tell his mom but in order for them to solve the problem that’s at hand he has to?”
The Struggling Family
PRETTY WOMAN legend Julia Roberts takes center stage as Holly. She gives an intense and dedicated performance as the woman whose love for her son threatens to eclipse all else. Lucas Hedges (who we know from LADY BIRD, MID90S, and BOY ERASED) is every bit Roberts’ equal as struggling addict Ben Burns.
While much of the film centers around the damaged relationship between mother and son, Holly isn’t the only one affected by Ben’s addiction. Her husband Neal, played by Courtney B. Vance, has strong opinions about his stepson’s return. Ben’s sister Ivy is also impacted. Kathryn Newton, who was recently seen in HBO series BIG LITTLE LIES, steps into the role of Ivy.
We could talk all day about the film’s impressive cast, as each member contributes important emotions and reactions. Rachel Bay Jones, Alexandra Park, Michael Esper and David Zaldivar all feature bring special moments to the movie.
Thanks to their efforts, BEN IS BACK is a poignant drama, but one with surprises that carry it into unexpected territory. It’s a chance to see Julia Roberts do some of her best work, and to enjoy the development of Lucas Hedges as one of our most fearless young actors.