"Ego you use for a whole lot of things in this business. You got to have it to protect yourself against all the people who're going to tell you that the job means dick. Yeah, I know the job means dick."-Russell Crowe
A drug addicted teenage boy shows up unexpectedly at his family's home on Christmas Eve.
Review by Louise Keller: 'It's what I do,' says Julia Roberts' distraught mother Holly, when told she is trying too hard - to pull her drug-addicted son Ben (Lucas Hedges) from the quagmire. Prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster ride: Peter Hedges' film is hard-hitting and powerful as it explores the lengths to which a mother will go to save her son.
Hedges has penned a wonderful screenplay that hits every nerve. What begins as a family drama turns into a mystery thriller in which the past and the future are inextricably entwined. It is through Holly's eyes that we learn the extent of Ben's damage. In one of her best performances, Roberts' emotional journey can be gauged by watching her beautiful, expressive face - often shown in tight close up. She displays concern, relief, revulsion, dismay, pity, regret, fear, determination, desperation and love.
These are all the emotions we feel as life unravels after Ben appears on Christmas Eve, and the ghosts of the past are revisited. The glimpse of the trail of destruction and collateral damage Ben has left behind may be fleeting, but it sears into our consciousness as its far reaching impact is realised.
Directed by his father, talented Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Boy Erased) slips easily into Ben's dark world. Listen for the crack in Holly's voice when she pointedly takes Ben to the cemetery, demanding he tells her where he would like to buried. We understand that is her ultimate fear - that her son will not survive. As we are taken into Ben's dangerous world, it is clear her fears are not unfounded. Our hearts cry for Holly as her world falls apart and her worst fears are realized. The intensity of the final scene is impossible to describe, nor is it possible to forget.
The subject matter is tough and the ugly consequences not easy to watch. Hedges' film allows light to filter into the dark, leaving us with hope, fueled by Roberts' convincing turn as a selfless mother whose unconditional love for her son has a beauty of its own.