"Ben is Back" is a film that I think deals with the realistic struggle of a mother, Holly (Julia Roberts) and her recovering, drug addict, oldest son, Ben (Lucas Hedges) who decides to visit his family for Christmas Eve. The story is that a day in the life of this realistic portray of a family. Their dog gets stolen after their house is broken into while they were at Church and Ben makes it his mission to get him back since it is his fault that they came after his family. Holly tags along. The camera work is standard but the sound design was really good because it did not focus any emotion on to the audience.
The acting was the strongest that I have seen from Julia Roberts as she plays the role of a mother who is glad to see her son and believes that he is doing well (at the beginning, this time) but she has a back-bone and knows the history that he has with drugs, and rehab. She is loving when it is needed to be but very strict when it is required. There was a scene where she and Ben were buying close and Ben (finally) gave her the drug that he had on him. She blew a fuse which is understandable since their agreement was that no drugs, under her watch, and only for that day since he would have to go back to rehab the following day. Ben was not meant to come a visit them and the family made a plan to go visit him on Christmas Day. He broke a rule and she reacted as a mother would in that situation. She yelled, and took him to a grave yard asking him to chose his spot but not next to his granddad. Harsh but Holly went from happy to angry since this whole thing was not the first time for her. She knows her son and she knows the potential signs to look out for.
There was a another scene later in the film when Ben says that Neal (Courtney B. Vance) was a bastard and Holly put Ben in his place, usually the mom in past movie would be like 'haha, he can be but I love him' etc. Holly was not like that at all and her tone changed and everything. Holly is a good mother since she will only look out for her kids and other kids may get harmed in the way (she gave drugs to get information) but if you were in her situation what would you have done?
Hedges does a superior job of showing the struggle of Ben as he does not want to give into triggers and that he thinks everything is his fault. He tries to do good but it backfires and this causes an unpleasant and worrying ending. Ben had made mistakes that were told to us and he even got one of his neighbours addicted and she ODed, and sold drugs to someone who he forgot about and only saw at his meeting.
Another thing that I liked about the family is not everyone is over-the-moon with Ben coming back such as his sister, Ivy (Kathryn Newton). She is not a 'bitch' about it but she is worried and sees another side that her mother is ignoring. She was the one that connected Neal and it was through Neal that the agreement came to be instead of taking Ben back straight away.
The story telling was more tell than show which I think worked here because that is how conversation tend to go and this is only one family's story within this world. The film only shows us one day and not the build up to it. The acting show the weight of the past and Holly's happiness for the future but not everything goes to plan and patterns can be extremely hard to break. The film on a whole was emotional with the ideas of what would it be like to be a parent to a child that is struggling, this is what hit me fairly hard. So good use of sound, brilliant on-point acting, and a good use of the tell don't show method.