NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.
I went to see this film w/ a gal pal who knows a LOT re: the main issue involved; she is one of the MANY lawyers working on an opioid class action lawsuit against big pharma. (From Wikipedia: Opioids are narcotics that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Medically they are primarily used for pain relief, including anesthesia.) For fans of Julia Roberts, you’ll see a VERY different side of the actress (who many dubbed “America’s Sweetheart.”) For those of you who aren’t such big fans, IF you watch this performance, you MAY change your mind! Lucas Hedges (whose father wrote/directed this indie) continues to grow (physically, as well as an actor). This year, he is also in the lead in Boy Erased (which I haven’t seen yet); leave me your thoughts (in comments below) if you have anything to share on that film.
Though Ben is Back deals w/ MANY of the same themes as Beautiful Boy, it’s more focused on a mother’s perspective. (Roberts is also a mom, and her older brother- Eric- suffered MANY years w/ alcohol addiction.) This is also a smaller, yet more urgent story, b/c it takes place just over 24 hrs in the life of its characters. This was shot on a small budget (looks like a documentary at times), BUT there are tense moments that pack a big punch. You can’t really see the acting; Roberts inhabits the role of a concerned, sensitive, and protective mother!
I felt like Hedges was more like a regular (though troubled) teen than Timothee Chalamet. Maybe it’s b/c Hedges has the appearance of your “average” kid and tries hard to hold in his emotions (as young males tend to do). Chalamet has more delicate features and can come off as aloof. Well, BOTH of them are getting meaty roles and a LOT of critical acclaim. I was also VERY impressed by the teen actress who played Ben’s younger sister. The two half-sibs did really well also; they were cute, energetic, and had great chemistry w/ the teen and older actors. Ben’s African-American step-dad, Neal (Courtney B. Vance), doesn’t get much to do; I was disappointed b/c any actor could’ve done this role. You can see the trailer below.