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19 year-old Ben Burns unexpectedly returns home to his family's suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. Ben's mother, Holly, is relieved and welcoming but wary of her son staying clean. Over a turbulent 24 hours, new truths are revealed, and a mother's undying love for her son is tested as she does everything in her power to keep him safe.
Roger EbertFull Review Good ...the performances remain uniformly strong and hold the story together, even as it threatens to spin out of control. The constant push-pull between Hedges and Roberts, the see-saw of the power dynamic as each tries to navigate this thorny situation, is the most compelling element of "Ben Is Back.”
Slant MagazineFull Review Average ...as the scope of the film widens, Peter Hedges begins to lose his grip on the material. ...the film takes a bizarre swerve into thriller terrain. What started out as a measured chamber drama devolves into a broad-strokes portrait of suburban America's dark underbelly...
The GuardianFull Review Good Through it all, Roberts runs a gamut of emotions that remind us of what a powerful actress she is. Her vital and touching teamwork with Hedges, who keeps getting more impressive with each role, is what makes the film work...
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On Christmas Eve morning, 19-year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly
surprise his family at their cozy suburban home. His mother Holly (Julia
Roberts) is thrilled to be
reunited with her son but wary about his ability to stay clean, while Ben's
distrustful sister Ivy
(Kathryn Newton) and common-sense stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) fear he
will wreak havoc
on their lives as he's done so many times before.
After Ben launches a charm offensive that wins over his young half-siblings,
Holly agrees to
let him stay for the holiday on one condition: For the next 24 hours, she will
personally monitor his
That evening the family returns from a church Christmas pageant to find that
has been ransacked. Worse still, their beloved dog is missing. It's a message
that Ben's past has
caught up with him and old debts must be paid. Heading into the frigid night,
Ben and his mother
embark on a quest to recover the dog from whichever of Ben's former associates
may have taken
him. Along the way, as he tries to make things right and she learns unsettling
truths about her son's
life, Holly does everything in her power to keep Ben safe.