Director: Peter Hedges
The Beautiful Woman plays a dutiful mother to her wayward son Ben (Lucas Hedges) in ‘Ben is Back’, written and directed by the latter’s father Peter Hedges.
It’s Yuletide, and the family consisting of Holly Burns (Julia Roberts), daughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton) — by a previous marriage, husband Neal (Courtney B Vance) and their two children are in a holiday mood. On the way home from one of the festivities, one of Holly’s wishes come true as she sees her 20-year-old son Ben, waiting in their driveway, back from rehab. Her joy is matched by daughter Ivy’s consternation. Stepfather Neal’s reaction (“If he were black, he’d be in jail right now”) too says it all. Holly comes up with “You take care of our children, I’ll take care of mine”. These two proclamations soon threaten to shift the film to another genre altogether. Mercifully, it doesn’t.
When their dog goes missing, Holly attempts to connect the dots and goes to great lengths — nay, all the way — to discover the reason for her son’s addiction (which began a good five years ago with consuming painkillers) and the people behind it, turning the last half hour into thriller mode.
Ben is Back is a great vehicle for both Roberts and the of-late prolific Lucas Hedges. Though with a runtime of under two hours and set in a 24-hour period, Peter Hodges makes it a taut thriller drama. Shot in New York State, the warmth of a loving mother and a son unwilling to disclose his true emotions help dissipate the chills of Xmas.