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Laramie Movie Scope: Ben is Back

A tense, harrowing Christmas eve

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 26, 2018 – This movie utilizes a kidnapped dog rescue story to show the damage done to a community by one man's addiction in a seemingly idyllic upper middle class New England setting.

Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”) here adds to his impressive résumé of performances as the title character, the recovering addict Ben Burns, who makes a bad choice checking out of recovery to visit his family on Christmas Eve. Ben seems to be recovering from drug addiction, but admits that he can't really be trusted. His mother, Holly Burns (played by Julia Roberts of “Wonder”) desperately wants to believe in him, but immediately hides the prescription drugs and valuables when he comes home.

Ben's sister, Ivy (Kathryn Newton of “Blockers”) is visibly alarmed and calls her father (Ben's stepfather) Neal Beeby (Courtney Vance of “Terminator Genisys”) as soon as she sees Ben. It is apparent that the appearance of Ben is very bad news. Everyone except for Holly thinks Ben should immediately return to the rehab facility (not his first one, either).

Returning home, Ben is confronted by old temptations, such as drugs he has hidden in the house, but he seems to be resisting these temptations. He attends a church service, and seems to be doing well until the family gets home and finds that the family dog is missing. Ben knows what has happened. A drug dealer he used to work for has stolen the dog in order to get Ben to do something for him.

Ben hoping the drug dealer is not the one who stole the dog, goes on a trip around town checking on people who hold a grudge against him, including the father of his formerly girlfriend, who died of an overdose. He visits a former school teacher, who provided him with the opioid Oxycontin. Holly confronts the doctor who helped Ben get addicted to Oxycontin.

As Ben and Holly look for the kidnapped dog, we see Ben's past life unspool in front of us. We learn that he was a low-level drug dealer as well as an addict, and a thief who stole in order to support his habit. His influence is all over town, and not in a good way.

When he finally learns who kidnapped the dog, he ditches his mother and goes off to settle the matter on his own, telling Holly it is too dangerous for her to be involved. Holly borrows a car from the mother of Ben's former girl friend and goes off in search of Ben. These searches become increasingly desperate and dangerous.

Drug addiction has been explored in many movies, but this is an especially revealing look into not only the nature of an addict, but the effect he has had on his own family, and on the lives of many other people in a tight-knit community. Hedges and Roberts both give excellent performances in this film, and the supporting actors are all strong as well. This is a searing look at a profile in modern, middle class drug addiction. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]