From the moment recovering addict Ben comes home for Christmas, his family home is thrown into disarray.
Mastering the chaos is his assertive mother Holly (Julia Roberts), who goes head-to-head with her hard-line husband to give Ben a reprieve from his Sober Living facility, if only for Christmas day.
The whole family worries about Ben’s sobriety — even his mother’s first move is to stash the prescriptions and hide the jewelry — but they try to stay on his side throughout his trip.
But a triggering environment and old debts threaten to crumble Ben’s shaky conquering of his addiction, as his mother wrestles to keep that from happening.
Oscar nominee Peter Hedges — writer and director here — keeps a careful eye on difficult subject matter.
Though this is the less emotional film about a teen dealing with substance abuse this year, it’s much more measured and resonant than Beautiful Boy.
The tightly-scripted, difficult Ben Is Back hinges on performances. Lucas Hedges is getting all the love for Boy Erased this year, and yet, this is the better performance this year.
He’s dynamic, sympathetic and fully announces himself as a member of the Hollywood elite here. He’s only overpowered by his sparring partner, Julia Roberts, who gives her most fierce performance since August: Osage County here.
This is a poignant film, and a late release that has been unfairly passed over in 2018. In any other, less crowded year, it’d be a surefire Oscar contender.
Ben Is Back is not only a raw take on the subject matter, but one of the best films of the year.