Julia Roberts Shines In Powerful Addiction Drama "Ben Is Back"

By David Konow 12/11/18

Ben is Back follows the Burns family over the course of a turbulent 24 hours as Holly tries desperately to save her son, who's fresh out of rehab, from danger.

Julia Roberts in a scene from addiction drama "Ben is Back"
Photo via YouTube

Ben is Back is an acclaimed new film about a mother whose son is struggling with opioid addiction. Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, who play mother and son in the addiction drama are both receiving rave reviews for their performances.

In Ben is Back, Ben Burns (played by Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns to his family's home on Christmas Eve, a time that can be even more tumultuous for those with addiction. The film follows the family over the course of 24 hours as Roberts tries desperately to save her son from danger, as he’s fresh out of rehab. The film showcases the toll that addiction takes on the loved ones of those dealing with the disease.

In researching his role, Lucas spent time with Roberts’ family, and as the Oscar-winning actress told The Daily Beast, that quality time together “served us in the dark, cold night of shooting. We had these sunny days to reflect back upon.”

Ben is Back was written and directed by Peter Hedges, Lucas’ father, who also wrote and directed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Addiction ran in Peter’s family. His mother battled alcoholism and became sober when Peter was 15.

Hedges told The Hollywood Reporter he was struggling with writer’s block, but after the death of a friend from an overdose, and the subsequent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, he became obsessed with the subject of addiction.

Once the Ben is Back screenplay was finished, Disney quickly snapped it up, and producer Nina Jacobson said it was “the fastest journey I’ve ever taken from script to screen.”

As Lucas explains, “I think the movie is a reflection of my dad’s passion for triumph in family. He’s always had an intense gift in being able to see the innocence and beauty in people who struggle with addiction, because that’s very close to his own story with his family and how he relates to his mother who struggle with it.”

Lucas also feels that Ben is Back has great potential to help other families who are suffering from addiction to heal as well. “I felt like this movie was an opportunity for us as a family to confront something that’s hereditary and that maybe it would be easier going forward for what maybe my kids will have to deal with.”

“This is a lot of families,” Roberts says. “It’s such a huge issue. I just don’t know that there could be anyone who could sit in a room and say is there anywhere here who could say alcohol abuse, drug abuse, addiction has not touched your life in some way.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.