Friday, January 25, 2019

Ben is Back: So is Julia Roberts - Fighting for Her Son in America's Opium Crisis

By José Alberto Hermosillo
Ben is Back, poster courtesy of Roadside Attractions ©2018.

“Ben is Back,” a heartfelt movie that humanizes the drug-addiction crisis in America and the struggle families have -  genuinely revealing.

A drug-addict teen named Ben, terrifically played by Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased,” “Lady Bird”), unexpectedly shows up to join his family for Christmas. His young sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) is in a defensive mood - she knows he will cause trouble even though he is again out of rehab.

Ben is Back, poster. Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

The mother, Holly Burns, Julia Roberts, will stand by her son no matter what.

Ben unintentionally places his family in danger because of his previous debts. He wants to set the record straight but denies that the temptation is more significant than his will.
Peter Hedges, writer/director
Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

We had an engaging conversation with the writer/director Peter Hedges at the LA Film School. He discussed with many aspirant writers and filmmakers the importance of finding that story you love because if you dig into it, there is something underneath worth telling.

When Hedges’ mother died of cancer, he was inspired to write “Pieces of April,” his first feature. At that time, Mr. Hedges wrote a story about one of the most significant people in his life. This passion was entirely about his project, his dream, and his mother.

Ben is Back, still courtesy of Roadside Attractions ©2018.

In this Mr. Hedges’ fourth feature, he wanted to stop people from dying of O.D. in America. “Ben is Back” is a remarkable film that promotes a significant change in our society. 

Mr. Hedges’ goal was to make a movie that could reach as many people as possible and create consciousness about the invisible danger of killing our youth.

In his own words, “Drug is a faceless antagonist.”

Working with Julia and his son Lucas was a thrill for the director. 

It was easy to get Julia Roberts on board. Great actresses want to play great characters.

In this emotional, character-driven roller-coaster, Ben’s previous lifestyle drives him back to the drug dealers. Unknowingly, he endangers his family. The mother’s unbreakable bond won’t let her son go stoically.

Other contemporary films addressing the drug epidemic in America are “Beautiful Boy,” with the outstanding performances of Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carrell. “Winter’s Bone,” directed by Debra Granik with Jennifer Lawrence, is a movie that goes straight to drug production, distribution, and the violent burning in our society. 

Those films show how addiction is not fun anymore. The situation is worsening every day - and the authorities don’t do enough to prevent, treat, and rehabilitate people in desperate need, mostly the young. 

Julia Roberts hasn’t been that remarkable since “Erin Brockovich.” Young actor Lucas Hedges is passionate about his craft.

Without Oscar's pedigree, “Ben is Back” is an essential film to open up the conversation about illegal drugs in America. 

Besides the dangers of the drug dealing experience, the insightful film emphasizes the importance of family integration and inclusion as part of the drug-addiction patients’ treatment to overcome the obscure scourge in our modern-day society.

Film critic Jose Hermosillo, writer/director Peter Hedges ©2019 Festival in LA

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