Writer-director Peter Hedges (Pieces of April, Dan in Real Life) is most in his element when dealing with messy family dynamics, so it’s no surprise that this story is better at capturing those dynamics than at folding an addiction narrative into a gritty drama. Hedges’ son Lucas plays Ben Burns, who leaves his treatment program for heroin addiction to return home to his mother, Holly (Julia Roberts), and the rest of his family for Christmas. Ben’s stepfather (Courtney B. Vance) and sister (Kathryn Newton) are cautious and skeptical, but Roberts brilliantly plays the sweeping range of a mother coping with a kid she loves but can’t trust, from hiding her jewelry to spitting a venomous tirade at the doctor she believes hooked Ben on pain-killers. The mother-son interaction is fascinating in its complexity, so it’s a bummer that the story evolves into Ben having to make good to the creepy drug dealer to whom he still owes money, and a subsequent drawn-out search for Ben. The ending offers too abrupt an attempt at catharsis to do justice to the tornado of emotions filling the rest of the film.
Director: Peter Hedges
Producer: Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Teddy Schwarzman, Peter Hedges, Daniel Steinman, Micah Green, Dan Friedkin, Ben Stillman, Michael Heimler, Jane Evans, Mickey Liddell and Pete Shilaimon
Cast: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, Kathryn Newton, Rachel Jones, David Zaldivar, Alexandra Park, Michael Esper, Tim Guinee, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Mia Fowler, Jakari Fraser, Melissa van der Schyff and Jocelyn Bioh