Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts Hint at Tearjerking Performances in ‘Ben Is Back’

Emotional stakes are raised in the first look at Peter Hedges’ drama about a teenage boy struggling with addiction.
Ben is Back
By  · Published on October 12th, 2018

The impact that addiction has on both its victims and their loved ones is a theme that seems to be present in several of this year’s fall releases (i.e. Beautiful BoyA Star is Born) and Ben is Back is another film to add to this list. But what’s clear from the first official trailer is that Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges hold nothing back in their performances as a mother and son who must together tackle the obstacles that addiction has created for them.

The film is written and directed by Peter Hedges (also, notably, the father of the film’s star) and follows 19-year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) who arrives home on Christmas Eve morning after ditching rehab, much to the surprise of his mother, Holly (Roberts). Taking place over a 24-hour period, it follows Ben and his mother as they’re faced with an array of new challenges while Holly also focuses on keeping her son clean.

Check out the film’s trailer below.

The trailer exhibits many tender moments between Hedges’ and Roberts’ characters, opening with their first encounter after Ben arrives home unannounced. Holly agrees to take him in for the day before he must go back to rehab but fiercely declares that he is not to leave her sight during his time at home. Furthermore, Ben’s danger isn’t just that of not maintaining sobriety, but he has mix-ups in drug-related crimes to deal with, as well. He confronts his mother with zeal, telling her that she doesn’t know who he really is, which Holly fervently denies as any parent would.

The chemistry shared between Roberts and Hedges as a mother-son duo is undeniable, and the emotional prowess behind their performances permeates each clip shown in the trailer, no matter how brief they may be. The desperation in Roberts’ performance to keep her son alive and happy connects to a universal quality shared by all mothers, and Hedges effortlessly displays a sense of fear and uncertainty of youth to parallel this. However, their circumstances take them to a place where no mother hopes to be with her child. “Just tell me, son, where you want me to bury you,” Holly says to Ben as they stand together in a graveyard.

The film had its world premiere at TIFF in September and opened to a largely positive response from critics. This is Peter Hedges’ fourth film as a writer/director, but he’s perhaps best known for his acclaimed screenplays for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and About a Boy, the latter of which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2002.

Hedges is acting in two other major films this year, including the lead role in Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, a drama about the dangers of gay conversion therapy and a supporting part in Jonah Hill’s coming-of-age flick Mid90s. Hedges holds an Academy Award nomination for his role in Manchester by the Sea, while Roberts has four Academy Award nominations under her belt and one win for her role in Erin Brockovich. It is hard to say how Ben is Back might play into the awards conversation, having the potential to either fly under the radar or launch into the main race, but the first level of consideration the film might receive would undoubtedly be for its performances.

Ben is Back hits select theaters on December 7th.

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I write about film and occasionally other stuff. Xavier Dolan enthusiast. Trying to read books before seeing their film adaptations and sometimes succeeding.