Ben is Back

Peter Hedges’ Ben is Back Spotlights 

The American Family’s Struggle with Adolescent Addiction

By: Lauren Stannard

According to a startling statistic, for the second consecutive year, American’s life expectancy has decreased. The main culprit–drugs. A steady rise of young American deaths are fueled by overdoses.  In 2016 alone, 63,600 Americans died of overdoses. The National Center of Health Statistics states that rates in 2016 were highest for persons aged 25–34 (34.6 per 100,000), 35–44 (35.0), and 45–54 (34.5). According to CNN, most of those deaths involved opioids, painkillers which include illicit heroin and fentanyl, in addition to prescribed medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

As parents read these findings, they can’t help but wonder how they can protect their children.  Are there personality traits that may make certain children predisposed to addiction? Experts are working on finding these answers but as of today there is no clear answer.  One person can try a host of drugs and not become addicted. Whereas another can experiment once and find themselves battling a lifelong addiction.  Some experts believe there are pre-existing conditions such as depression or anxiety which lend themselves to addictive tendencies.  However, families who struggle with a member(s) battling addiction share similar tales of long, bumpy roads to recovery, such as the one portrayed in “Ben is Back,” which GIFF screened on December 17th, followed by a Q&A with the film’s esteemed writer and director, Peter Hedges.

Peter Hedges’s Ben is Back, forcibly portrays the undying love of a mother for her drug-addicted son.  Peter wrote and directed the film pulling from his own life experiences.  In the feature, Holly (Julia Roberts) the devoted mother of Ben (Lucas Hedges), struggles between elation and trepidation with a surprise visit from her son out of rehab for Christmas. The movie spans the course of a day in which the boy’s dark past hazes over what should be a joyous holiday.  Ben is Back taps into relevant issues surrounding the drug epidemic such as the injustice between races being incarcerated for drug related felonies, and the profound cost of rehabilitation centers that prevent many from getting services. Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges have remarkable chemistry and give moving performances.  They are strongly supported by Kathryn Newton and Courtney B. Vance, who play Holly’s daughter and husband respectively.  The storyline of Ben is Backgives real insight into the painful struggle which is the reality for many American families.



National Institute of Drug Abuse

Photo Credit: Fairfield County Look

About the author

Lauren, when not chasing after her three sons, writes. Her experience includes work in marketing and education, as well as, screenplay writing. When possible she ditches the carpools and escapes to the nearest mall, concert or comedy show

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