Recommendation: 4/5 Stars, SHOWTIME
Plot: “A drug-addicted teenage boy shows up unexpectedly at his family’s home on Christmas Eve,” according to IMBD.
Review: Lucas Hedges is having a stellar year. In 2018 alone, he has appeared in “Ben Is Back,” “mid-90’s,” and “Boy Erased.” These varied roles are the kind of opportunities actors dream about when they sleep. Yet, it is his role as Ben Burns and the return to his family home that I found the most fascinating. Working alongside Julia Roberts, who plays his mother, we are given the next iteration in a series of movies coming down the pike that will attempt to tackle the opioid crisis sweeping across America.
Finding Ben standing in their driveway, joy and shock washes across the face of Holly Burns, Ben’s mother. Before her is one of the human beings she loves most in this world and the source of some of her greatest pain. These family dynamics become immediately apparent as Ben’s younger sibling wrestle with fear and excitement at his return. Soon, the reunion ends, and Ben is welcomed into the home because it is hard to turn away your own on Christmas Eve. From here, we see how difficult it is to love an addict. Pills and valuables are hidden away. Then, a cautiously optimistic love emerges that soon shifts into tough love as Holly lets Ben know the conditions of his staying at the family home.
With Ben’s return to his hometown, his past comes back to visit. We, as an audience, get our first glimpses into the misery Ben left in his wake. Homes broken into, lives ruined by addiction, unspeakable deeds done all in the name of getting high. Things get really complicated when we learn someone has broken into their home, stealing the family pet in an attempt to lure Ben back into the life. With his mother by his side, we take a gripping and agonizing trip through Ben’s past.
At this point in the film, Roberts and Hedges shine. There a scene taking place at a gas station that will leave you broken hearted. As someone who grew up around siblings who have battled substance use, it hit a little too close to home. I felt the mother’s pain as her son slipped through her fingers in an attempt to make everything right. It is here Holly gets some powerful advice. “We can’t save them, but you will hate yourself if you don’t try.” We as an audience are offered a powerful lesson as well. There is tremendous power found in unconditional love.
Be good to each other.
To read more reviews from Nathan Box visit his blog, www.natetheworld.com/.