What better way to start the holidays than with the special surprise of a first-born son, who is 77 days sober and ready to crash the festivities, and a mother with open arms hoping this time things will be different.
The movie “Ben is Back” shows how the faith of a mother can go beyond expectations, with the amazing performance of Julia Roberts as Holly Burns, a mother of four children who has been struggling with her oldest son Ben’s addiction. Ben, played by Lucas Hedges, first interacted with drugs when he was 14 years old.
In most films, addiction starts with smoking pot with friends and underestimating the power of getting hooked into a world of narcotics. But in this film, Ben gets addicted to drugs after medical negligence with painkillers he was prescribed for a minor skateboarding injury: a common way to get involved with drugs nowadays.
The film illustrates the reality of having a family member with an addiction for several years. It relates to parents who believe their child can be saved but also shows another side of this issue: not knowing who your son really is.
One of the best things about this film is how it follows Ben coming home for Christmas after being in rehab for months and focuses on the repercussions of his past in the present; not running back and forth into memories of who he was before.
The film illustrates the frustration of Ben’s sister Ivy, played by Kathryn Newton, and his stepfather Neal, played by Courtney B. Vance, who have suffered from Ben’s addiction with all the lies, stealing and overall deception. Holly can be somewhat delusional in thinking that after years of pain and lies, scars can be covered with smiles and wishful thinking that Ben can be the son she once knew.
Nevertheless, after the past comes back to hit Ben where it hurts the most, Holly has to face the truth about her son. This does not change the love she feels for her son. Rather than losing hope after things go wrong and keep getting worse, Holly never gives up on him and decides to take action even though Neal and Ivy ask her to let him go.
Neal really tries to help his stepson overcome his addiction, and even though Holly is trying to do the same thing, her feelings and expectations for Ben could get in the way of his full recovery.
Each character accurately represents the desperation of a family member who has been running in circles in the seemingly never-ending cycle of addiction, but Hedges’ character is one of the best performances he has delivered.
Over the past year, Hedges has starred in films such as “Mid90s” and “Boy Erased,” but his performance in “Ben is Back” challenged him to play a different character that allowed him to grow as an actor.
The film has a bittersweet ending, as it leaves the audience wondering what will happen next with Ben and his addiction. Roberts’ heartbreaking performance accurately depicted what it is like to be the mother of a child with an addiction, and the film leaves the audience rooting for Ben to come back, hopefully in pursuit of a better life.