Ben Is Back (2018) — PICK

Chef (2014) — PICK

Julia Roberts is heart-wrenchingly good as a devoted, long-suffering mother trying to give her troubled son the tough love he needs in writer-director Peter Hedges’ addiction drama Ben Is Back.

Sterling performances and emotional honesty elevate a rather straightforward drama about a young man named Ben (Lucas Hedges, the director’s son), who surprises his family on Christmas Eve by showing up at the house when he is meant to be in rehab.

The movie as a whole doesn’t quite gel, but what works is strong enough to be worth watching.

Want something more feel-good? If you’ve never seen writer-director Jon Favreau’s Chef, the new Blu-ray release is a perfect opportunity. Favreau plays a once-hot chef named Carl whose stifling work situation has dulled his creative edge and strained his relationship with his young son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), who lives with Carl’s ex-wife (Sofía Vergara).

A familiar setup paves the way for an unexpectedly joyous, unconventional redemption celebrating father-son bonding.

The ending is almost too perfect, but the movie earns the goodwill to sell it anyway.


Caveat Spectator: Ben Is Back: Much strong language and some profanity; pervasive drug abuse/addiction theme; fleeting violence; suicide theme. Mature viewing. Chef: Much strong and crude language, sexual references and limited profanity; fleeting drug use. Mature viewing.