Ben is Back: an insight on the unconditional love of a mother


Recently released in theatres, Julia Roberts stars in the new movie Ben is Back. Starring as a mother of an addict, Holly (Julia Roberts) unexpectedly welcomes home her addict son for Christmas. While Holly is overcome by happiness and a series of other emotions when seeing her son Ben (Luca Hedges), many people close to Holly are conflicted about his early return home from rehab. The movie touches upon very delicate topics such as the unconditional love a mother has for her son. Characterized by raw emotions, Ben is Back shifts from a serio-comic story of a blended family to a thriller about the mean streets of Suburbia. While Ben is Back was only recently released in theatres, it is already available for streaming on Chili.

Ben is Back is set in a single 24-hour period on Christmas Eve when Holly finds her son standing in her driveway and must suddenly welcome him home from rehab. Ben, her teenage son, has been struggling with an opiate addiction ever since taking painkillers following a snowboarding accident at the age of 14. When Ben comes home he is 77 days sober and has been allowed by the rehab to spend the holidays with his family.  While Holly welcomes her son home with a hug, his sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) is instantly suspicious as she recalls pervious encounters with Ben which didn’t end well. Ben’s stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) who took out an extra mortgage to pay for Ben’s rehab feels similarly and is skeptical to welcome Ben into their lives. 

The movie touches upon a series of difficult and important topics, such as the intricate and strong bond between a mother and a son. The director does a wonderful job of portraying a woman who so desperately wants to help her child that she is blinded by the fact that he may very well be manipulating her. As for Ben, you can never really tell if he is being sincere or if he is playing a part to simply satisfy his addiction. With its wry humor and shifting realities of an ‘everyday’ family caught up in a difficult situation, the movie begins to bear a pleasing edge of a thriller. Holly initially agrees to let Ben stay if he agrees to take a drug test and never leave her sight.  The plot then slowly escalates as Ben encounters people he previously knew when using drugs, some of which thought he was dead and others who sold him the exact drugs he used. A series of events such as home robbery and a dog kidnapping test Ben’s sincerity and Holly’s trust. Another important topic the movie touches upon is the pain and shame of recovery of facing one’s past.

Directed by Peter Hedges who is known for exploring family dynamics in many of his screenplays, Ben is Back carries a powerful message about family bonds and makes no attempt to inject humor into this subject, highlighting the films prominence. A movie that I highly recommend for any mother, Ben is Back is certainly not lighthearted or easy to view but is certainly and important story to follow, plus Julia Robert’s performance is truly amazing.

Let me know if you’ve seen the movie and what your thoughts are!


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