Ben is Back Movie Review
Lucas Hedges plays a drug addict who attempts to retrieve his family’s stolen dog from drug dealers in Ben is Back, a mildly engaging if somewhat uneven drama that appears to be missing the final 15 minutes of its story.
It’s also, unfortunately, not a spin-off of John Wick.
Written and directed by Lucas’ father Peter Hedges, Ben is Back appears to exist primarily as an avenue for the actor and Julia Roberts to be considered for acting awards. Lucas Hedges delivers a fine performance, but the role itself isn’t particularly memorable. Roberts falls into the same category—she’s good, but she also spends most of her time a few steps behind her on-screen son, frantically trying to solve a problem she cannot solve.
The story itself is both the movie’s greatest strength and biggest weakness. It has more inflection than the emotionally flat Beautiful Boy, released earlier this year, propelled by a plot that has Hedges’ character hurtling further and further into the abyss to help his family, even if it risks his sobriety. While it’s thankfully not just another downer story about an addict doing drugs, the story also feels forced at times, more interested in keeping things moving than exploring in depth the characters at hand.
What kills Ben is Back is the ending, however. In fact, it’s challenging to say the movie even has an ending—Hedges the director concludes things so abruptly you’re left sitting staring at the screen saying, “Wait, that’s it?” The movie not only leaves the characters in an unsatisfying situation that seems counter to everything that happened leading up to that moment, but it fails to provide even momentarily resolution or a sense that anything at all has been accomplished.
Ben is Back is a serviceable drama, but good performances by Hedges and Roberts are not enough to overcome the story’s deficiencies.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.