Ben is Back (AU - M/US - R)

In A Word: Fierce

Ben is Back

"Ben is Back makes for a powerful parable where it is evident that true unconditional love will go to any extent to save a prodigal son, no matter how lost they are."

Addiction and drugs have always been a sensitive and difficult topic. Whether it be in the media, politics or polite conversation, views on this subject can be polarising. Rather than wade through the politics of the issue, Ben is Back tackles this tough theme with a brutally honest portrayal of the impact of addiction on one family and the surrounding community. With powerful performances and a masterfully crafted script, Ben is Back is a poignant story of a parent’s love in the face of the destructive force of addiction.

Julia Roberts is Holly Burns, a suburban mother with four children in a second marriage. On Christmas Eve, she is startled to find her eldest son, Ben (Lucas Hedges - Oscar nominated for Manchester by the Sea), in the driveway, having returned from drug rehabilitation surprisingly early. The family’s initial decision to return Ben to the rehab facility is reversed to allow Ben to spend one day at home for Christmas. The next 24 hours pushes the whole family to their limits, as past mistakes and present temptations continue to haunt the struggling Ben.

Writer/director Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy, Dan in Real Life, The Odd Life of Timothy Green) demonstrates his play-writing heritage by revealing an enormous amount of depth and backstory to Ben’s journey, even though the events of the film take place in less than 24 hours. By cleverly interweaving characters from the past in seemingly mundane environments such as a mall, the church, and an AA meeting, Ben’s past unfolds. We begin to understand a fuller picture of how his addiction began, the tragic implications to his loved ones, and the depths he sank to in order to feed his habit.

The weight of Ben’s guilt and shame for past mistakes combined with the suffocating pressure of constant temptation creates a tense environment where one mistake could set Ben on a downward spiral. Julia Roberts shines in the midst of this struggle with a fierce portrayal of a mother’s unconditional love. With full forgiveness for the past and a dedication to save her son, she journeys from the comfort of suburbia into the dark underbelly of urban decay. It is a love that is persistent, powerful, brutally honest and ever hopeful.

In a poetic reversal, the destructive power of addiction meets its match in a mother’s unrelenting love. Ben is Back makes for a powerful parable where it is evident that true unconditional love will go to any extent to save a prodigal son, no matter how lost they are.