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Ben is Back

Lucas Hedges plays Ben Burns, who on Christmas Eve shows up unexpectedly at home to spend 24 hours with his family; the reason he gives is that his sponsor said he was doing so well that he could take a day away from his drug treatment facility. His mom (Julia Roberts) is happy but also conflicted. The film is the story of his 24 hours at home and the various twists and turns the visit takes. I have mixed feelings about the film. Julia Roberts gives an emotionally intense performance in what is probably one of the best of her career as a mother who clearly loves her son but at the same time finds it difficult to completely trust him. Hedges’ performance is solid – you never know quite what he is up to – but I also did not find his character portrayal to be completely convincing. The topic is important and timely in its portrayal of drug addiction and its impact on families and the community. However, the script didn’t provide significant depth and insight into drug addiction beyond what other films and books have provided.  The story, while compelling, seems to wander occasionally, particularly during the second half of the movie (not including the final scenes, which I really liked). The film did keep me guessing and took unexpected plot turns, which I enjoyed. Thumbs up for a film whose subject matter can be tough to watch but is well-acted and, for the most part, engaged me. This film for me was much less repetitive and felt more “real” than did Beautiful Boy, but I think that Timothee Chamalet flawlessly nailed the portrayal of a drug-addicted youth in a way that Hedges did not.

About Gary Burkholder

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