Opening January10, 2019
Directed by: Peter Hedges
Writing credits: Peter Hedges
Principal actors: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance
Ben is Back is a drama concerning a family in crisis due to problems of addiction. Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) and three of her four children are on their way home from a rehearsal for a Christmas Eve program at church when they unexpectedly find Ben, the oldest of the four children (played by Lucas Hedges, son of the film's director) at home. Home is a suburb of New York City. They had actually been planning to visit him on Christmas Day at the rehab center where he has been a patient for over two months. Despite the wishes of her older daughter and husband, Ben's stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance), Holly decides to let Ben stay for the holiday. She immediately hides all medicines, her jewelry and lays down the ground rules - he will always be in her presence. The situation worsens after Christmas Eve at church when the family arrives back home to find their dog gone and the house a mess. Ben assumes Ponce was kidnapped by drug dealers who want something from him and Holly accompanies Ben while he drives to his old haunts to try to find out what's going on. Holly who lives in middle class comfort is shocked by the milieu her son has had dealings with and we continue to see how addiction doesn't just affect the addict but his family, friends and community as well.
This movie sends quite a message socially and politically. We are asked how far a parent is willing to go to help a child in trouble and it is not incorrect to assume that Neal is right when he states, "If he was black, he'd be in jail." (Thelma F.)