Film Review : Ben is Back
Here’s the deal, and it is not negotiable.
You get a day.
Films about addictions and the destructive effect on family life and personal well-being. I have a hard time dealing with it. “Beautiful Boy” made a crushing impression on me recently. I was thrown off balance after watching it. An emotional fight by a father trying to save his son from a world full of self-destructive chemical junk. An impressive spectacle about hope and second chances. Maybe “Ben is back” is not a similar film on the whole. But nonetheless, I looked at it again in a depressing way and a not so pleasant memory came up again. “Ben is back” certainly isn’t a bad film but doesn’t reach the same level as “Beautiful Boy“. Unfortunately, they decided halfway to turn the social drama into a drug-related thriller. Dealing (pun not intended) with drug addiction was replaced by settings things straight with some drug dealers. In other words, Ben’s world from the past.
Talking about a Christmas surprise.
Here it’s not a father who serves as a rock in the raging surf. Holly (Julia Roberts) remains Ben’s refuge. She still has hope in the recovery of her son Ben (Lucas Hedges). And then suddenly her son shows up with Christmas. A complete surprise since he normally would stay over in rehab during the holidays. Ben has been there for several months and thanks to his sponsor he seems to be able to leave the addictive stuff behind him. And mother Holly is positive. Nevertheless, all medicines and valuable things are removed quickly. Apparently, confidence has not yet been fully restored.
Endearing, moving, confronting and painful.
And also stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) doesn’t trust him. So he imposes a veto. Ben is allowed to stay with them for 24 hours, but only if mother Holly keeps a close eye on him for the entire period. A veto that provides the most exciting part of the film. The interaction between mother and son. Endearing and moving at moments. Fairly confronting and painful at other times. Like the scene at the cemetery where Molly points out how destructive his life is. He can even choose a spot as his last resting place. Or the conversation between Molly and the retired doctor who prescribed pain killers to Ben in the past. Two scenes imbued with anger and despair. And all thanks to the addictive stuff Ben was hooked on. Something he wants to get rid of if you listen to his monologue during an NA meeting. In my eyes the most emotional moment.
Julia Roberts shines.
Mandatory at school.
And yet this movie didn’t impress me as much as “Beautiful Boy“. Purely and simply because they’ve not only chosen to create a captivating emotional family drama, but also to make a standard drugs-related thriller of it. The moment the dog disappeared, it immediately reminded me of “Once upon a time in Venice” where gang leader Jason Momoa kidnapped Bruce Willis’s dog. The search of Ben and his mother is a quest full of popular attractions from Ben’s drug history. The key question in the second part is whether Ben is able to resist the temptation. And despite the excessive melodrama at the end, it’s still an exquisite film that conclusively demonstrates how destructive drugs can be. This film should be included in the educational curriculum of secondary schools. Together with “Beautiful Boy” it shows in a realistic way how disastrous your life can be. No drug campaign can match this!
Just Mercy | Official Trailer – HD
December 25, 2019
Destin Daniel Cretton
Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jamie Foxx, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Rhoda Griffis, Rafe Spall
A powerful and thought-provoking true story, “Just Mercy” follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan might have had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds and the system stacked against them.
Adopt a Highway: Melancholic And Endearing Film That Will Touch A Sensitive Nerve
When you commit a third violent crime,
you will be put away and put away for good.
Three strikes, and you are out.
Every now and then you come across such an unknown, idiosyncratic film, which was probably made with a modest budget and for which no huge marketing budgets have been made available. A film you don’t really expect too much from. That’s “Adopt a Highway“. It’s not a cheerful or action-rich film. I really expected a depressing drama. And even though there’s a moving moral in it, you can say there’s also another hidden message in this film. A message of hope, compassion and modesty.
The introduction shows how Russell Millings (Ethan Hawke) leaves prison after being imprisoned for 21 years. Reluctantly. Somewhat anxious and timid. A man who’s alienated from society and who struggles to keep up with the contemporary pace. Someone who has never used a mobile phone, the internet or e-mail. And all thanks to a short-sighted policy in which someone is sentenced to a heavy sentence when he gets involved in something for the third time. No matter how small the criminal offense is. The so-called “three strikes” legislation. In Russell’s case, it is about owning a few grams of marijuana in the state of California. Something that has become virtually legal after those 21 years. An unreasonable punishment that ensured that he wasn’t given the opportunity to develop into a decent citizen.
Ethan Hawke’s brilliant performance.
Ethan Hawke probably demonstrates his best acting performance here. The way he plays Russell is simply breathtaking. He’s in the spotlight almost constantly. And his clumsy way of conversing and interacting with others is simply sad and pitiful. It’s not clear whether Russell used to be mentally deficient from a young age already or if he got numb from the years of imprisonment. In any case, he’s treated by the official authorities as insignificant and is left to himself a bit. He tries to live an honest life and tries to avoid following the wrong path again. A simple life where he earns a living as a dishwasher in a fast-food chain and sleeps in a motel. Until he discovers the adorable Ella (Savannah Sucher) in a garbage container.
A baby’s gratitude.
Even though from the outset he realizes that it’s almost impossible for him to take care of a baby, he still hesitates to hand over the lovely baby to the authorities. What follows are touching moments that he experiences with the few-month-old Ella. His ignorance about taking care of a baby and the sense of responsibility that he suddenly experiences, take away the attention of the depressing life that he led until then. Even though Ella’s discovery brings a turning point in Russell’s life, this wasn’t the central theme for me. This helpless and innocent little girl shows gratitude in a spontaneous way. No disinterest, impatience or incomprehension as adults treat him. The most emotional scene is the one on the beach where Russell tells a part of his life story.
A second chance.
“Adopt a Highway” is a melancholic and endearing film that will touch a sensitive nerve with many viewers. Well, in my case it did. Some will call it a corny ending. I thought it was a logical conclusion. An example of humanity. It’s also a film about getting a second chance in life. I was surprised by the Blumhouse logo and I already assumed that this would be a very sinister movie. That’s certainly not the case. The explanation for the Blumhouse connection lies with the director Logan Marshall-Green who appeared last year in the Blumhouse production “Upgrade“. “Adopt a Highway” is, therefore, his debut as a director. And as far as I’m concerned he can certainly direct such a gem again. I’m ready for it.
You can see “Adopt a Highway” on Vudu, iTunes and Amazon.com
My rating 8/10
Low Tide: It’s Quite Obvious That It Won’t End Well
Eight, nine, ten. A thousand.
You boys find any more coins,
give me a holler.
Once and a while I like to watch a well-made coming-of-age movie. Such a film about juvenile innocence in which a radical event shakes the pleasant life of one or more young people. A life experience many of them look back at when they are adults. Like in “Stand by me” where a group of comrades goes looking for a corpse to become famous. In “Mud” it’s about two rascals helping a fugitive. And “Rockaway” shows two brothers who come up with a daring plan to get rid of their violent father. In most cases, things get a bit out of hand, making the impact on the involved kids even greater. Or it should be such a fairy-tale story as “The Goonies” (also aimed at a youthful audience) with a whopper of a happy ending so that you can walk around for days with such a broad smile that people are convinced that a coat hanger got stuck in your mouth.
Let’s bully Benny’s.
Admittedly, “Low Tide” is a bit reminiscent of “The Goonies“. Here you have two brothers, Peter (Jaeden “The Book of Henry” Martell) and Alan (Keean “Alita: Battle Angel” Johnson), who find a bag of gold coins while plundering beach houses of tourists. Golden coins of such value that it could be a way out of their futureless life situation. The whole story is situated in a remote region of Jersey Shore. A shabby neighborhood where fishery plays an important role. And tourism is also flourishing thanks to the wealthy day-trippers from the surrounding areas. The teenagers call those day-trippers Benny’s (residents of Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York). Alan, Red (Alex “A-X-L” Neustaedter) and Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri) hate them and therefore adhere to one rule during their raids. Homes of the local population are categorically shunned when they go looting once again.
A charming film full of frivolity.
There’s something charming about this film. It radiates frivolity and carefreeness when you see the three bosom friends joking at the fair. Acting tough and flirting with girls passing by. A summery atmosphere full of joy and mischiefs. Of course, their nocturnal escapades cannot be approved. For them, it seems like a game and a way to get money to sponsor their daily activities. Parental control is nil since Alan’s father has been at sea for some time. The rest seems to be parentless (no idea what Red’s family situation is) or their parents have no time or desire to worry about them. Even when Smitty loses a shoe and breaks a leg during such a nocturnal adventure, the three don’t seem to worry. It’s only when Peter is involved and a valuable treasure is found that the tensions starts to rise. Suddenly there’s discord within the close friends’ club. Distrust and greed arise. And when the local police officer Kent (Shea Whigham), who keeps an eye on one of the rascals, begins to meddle in their affairs, the real personality of some is struggling for dominance.
Not too bad but disappointing.
Despite the generally fascinating acting and the beautiful images presented in this film, there are a few shortcomings in this movie. First of all, the story itself is interesting, but on the other hand, it’s a bit too simplistic. You can easily summarize it all in a few short sentences. But most of all, there’s mainly a lack of tension. It’s quite obvious that it won’t end well. And that such a handsome guy like Alan will get some major attention from girls he meets, even though she’s a Benny, with a romantic tête-à-tête as a result, is not really a surprise and something you could expect. Red’s aggressiveness reaches a peak as his suspicion grows more and more. And they begin to feel the hot breath of Sergeant Kent down their neck. And yet the film fails to end up in an apotheosis. The outcome was actually disappointing, even though it was a logical conclusion. No spectacular firework (as can be seen at the end of the movie) and far too predictable. Unfortunately, because it still was a charming film.
My rating 5/10
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