Ben is Back
Peter Hedges, director & scriptwriter
Starring: Julia Roberts (Holly), Lucas Hedges (Ben), Courtney B. Vance (Neal), Kathryn Newton (Ivy), Michael Espier (Clayton), David Salivary (Spider)
Drugs in suburbia is one of the hottest topics going these days so it’s no surprise that it pops up as the major subject in Peter Hedges’ new thriller Ben is Back. Hedges has cast his son Lucas, a rising star who has played in major roles in Manchester by the Sea and Boy Erased, as the adolescent drug addict Ben Burns, who decides to leave his rehab centre to spend Christmas with his family. His sister Ivy and stepfather Neal aren’t thrilled to see him but Ben’s mother Holly is ecstatic that he’s home.
The first half of the movie goes heavy on dialogue as the suddenly dysfunctional family deals with their fears that Ben will do something horribly wrong while he’s back home, hoping to make amends. But when the family returns from holiday mass, Hedges’ thriller kicks into first gear as they realise that their dog Ponce has been stolen.
Suddenly, Holly finds herself confronting Ben’s drug related past as the two chase clues and suspects in a desperate attempt to find Ponce. As the tension ratchets up, the film morphs into melodrama while Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts are more than up for the task of portraying a son and mother, whose love for each other couldn’t be more severely tested than on this deceitful and violent Christmas Eve.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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