Ben Is Back isn’t the year’s first American drama about a teenage drug addict and the parent agonizing over how to help him. Two months ago, Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell acted out that same scenario in Beautiful Boy, a film so committed to capturing, in agonizing detail, each step (and misstep) on the road to recovery that it sometimes felt like a feature-length montage, always jerking the characters forward or backwards in time, never pausing to live in the present tense of their tumultuous lives. Written and directed by Peter Hedges, who’s cast his son, Lucas (a.k.a. Lady Bird’s other boyfriend), as the addicted teen, Ben Is Back offers an alternative approach. Unfolding over the span of about 24 hours, the film zeroes in on a single chapter that Beautiful Boy covered in just a few illustrative minutes: a prodigal son’s tense return home after a stint in rehab, all eyes on his attempt to stay clean.
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