Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

My Review of BEN IS BACK


Ben is Back, rated R
** ½ 

Ben is Back is an intense and emotional film about the love of a mother for her drug addicted son. The film is directed and written by Oscar nominee Peter Hedges (About a Boy), and features a strong cast.
The film opens with Holly, played by Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), and three of her children pulling into their driveway near Younkers, New York on Christmas Eve. They are returning from a rehearsal for Christmas Eve Mass.  As she pulls in, Holly has to slam on the brakes when she sees her 19-year-old son Ben, played by Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Boy Erased), son of the film’s director/writer, standing nervously in the yard. Ben, an opioid addict, and has been sober for 77 days. Ben says that he is home for Christmas, courtesy of a pass from his sponsor, though we don’t know if that is true or not. Ben’s return is sudden and unexpected, catching the family off guard. This may be Holly’s Christmas miracle, and her two young children are thrilled, but Ben’s teenage sister Ivy, played by Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), thinks accepting Ben back will be a mistake, having seen the damage Ben’s addiction has done to the family in the past. But Holly tells her that this time it will be different.When Neal, Holly’s husband and Ben’s stepfather, played by Golden Globe nominee Courtney B. Vance (American Crime Story), comes home, he insists that Ben immediately return to rehab. After an argument however, Neal agrees that Ben can stay for 24 hours, but only if Holly is with him the entire time.
The film takes us through the 24 hours of Ben’s return home. It includes an opening scene of Ben returning to the family. Though happy to see Ben home, we see Holly hiding prescription drugs and jewelry that might tempt Ben. Ben and Holly go to the mall for some last-minute shopping, to a recovery meeting and to Christmas Eve Mass. But the film takes an unexpected turn when their home is broken into while at Christmas Eve service, and Ben’s pet dog is stolen.
The first half of the film was very good, but the film doesn’t maintain that quality in the second half, where we see Holly make some poor choices. The film features excellent acting performances by Roberts as the fiercely loyal mom, and Hedges, one of our finest young actors. Newton and Vance also deliver good performances as Ben’s sister and stepfather, respectively.
Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language including several abuses of God’s name. Themes include addiction and the impact on a family, hope, relapse, bad decisions, lying and denial.
Ben is Back is a well-acted, emotional, intense film, similar in theme to the recent and superior film Beautiful Boy. The film deals with the serious issue of drug addiction and the impact on a family, and has a significant amount of adult language.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 40 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

2 thoughts on “My Review of BEN IS BACK

  1. On my must see list. I know more than a few people who struggle with addiction to drugs. Thanks for the post.

    • Hi William. “Ben is Back” is a powerful film with an outstanding performance by Julia Roberts. However, “Beautiful Boy”, which is based on a true story about an addicted son and the impact on his family, is the superior film of the two. Check that one out too. Thanks.

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