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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Ben is Back is an overwrought tearjerker, says Rashid Irani

A young man returns from rehab, to a welcoming mother and a wary sibling and stepdad. Can he stick with the programme?

movie-reviews Updated: Dec 14, 2018 15:23 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
Only the pitch-perfect performances of Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges keep this addiction-themed drama from going completely off the rails.
Only the pitch-perfect performances of Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges keep this addiction-themed drama from going completely off the rails.
         
BEN IS BACK
  • Direction: Peter Hedges
  • Actors: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges
  • Rating: 3 / 5

This domestic drama set on the morning of a Christmas Eve, in an American suburb, explores the scourge of teenage drug addiction and the suffering it causes the subject’s family.

The opening segment of Ben is Back is especially powerful. A 19-year-old recovering addict (Lucas Hedges, consolidating his reputation as one of his generation’s finest young actors) returns home for the holidays after an extended stay at a rehabilitation facility.

While his mother (the ever-effervescent Julia Roberts) is elated by her son’s unexpected arrival, the rest of the family, including his stepdad (Courtney B Vance) and younger sister (Kathryn Newton), are wary of this reunion.

Over the course of 24 hours, devastation unfolds as Ben is lured back into old habits. Unfortunately, the narrative subsequently veers into thriller territory, what with mom desperately seeking to wean her son off his addiction. The climax involves the heroics of the family’s pet dog and is a total cop-out.

Ultimately, it’s the pitch perfect performances of Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (whose father Peter wrote and directed the film) that lend credulity to an otherwise overwrought tearjerker.

First Published: Dec 14, 2018 15:23 IST

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