This has been a big year for Lucas Hedges. He has done a variety of brilliant performances this year. Three independent films that have all been Oscar-worthy. From “Mid 90s,” “Boy Erased,” and now “Ben is Back.” “Ben is Back” held me on the edge of my seat. The film is fearless, touching, and definitely one I find to be one of the best films of the year. Julia Roberts plays a mother that will do anything to protect her son.
The film follows a nineteen-year-old named Ben Burns (Hedges), a boy who has struggled with drug addiction for quite sometime, but has decided to go spend time with his family for Christmas. Holly Burns (Roberts) is convinced that her son is doing alright, but she is not too sure. As the 24 hours progresses, Ben’s negative pasts starts to come back and haunt him with negative acquaintances and damage being done on his families properties. Ben wants his past behaviors behind him, however, Holly believes she must help ben pursue who is after him and what has to be done to be sure he is safe.
When I saw “Ben is Back” at Landmark Century Centre Cinema downtown, I found myself feeling the emotions as everyone else in the auditorium with me. We were all deep in thought with the film. Jaws were dropped and some people started to cry. Especially in a moment where Roberts asks Hedges, “Where do you want me to barry you,” that created an emotional setting that was quite deep for the people watching the film and myself.
Hedges does a really good job at trying to explain to his mother and his family that he wants to be a sober kid. By doing so, he does all he can to not be aggressive, violent, or deceitful. However, as his negative actions slowly start to come back to him, his urges start to build up again. The director Peter Hedges (Lucas’s real father) does a good job with this directing element as he is also the writer of “Ben is Back.”
The director also directed “Pieces of April” (2003), “Dan in Real Life” (2007), and “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” (2012). When connection I found with “Ben is Back” connects to both “Pieces of April” and “Dan in Real Life.” That connection being parents wanting to reconnect with their children after being estranged or have struggled with past issues. “Ben is Back” definitely takes the cake with that element as Roberts is truly heroic.
“Ben is Back” was probably a film that I could only watch once. I left the theater amazed, but also slightly saddened by it. However, I give “Ben is Back” four stars.