Julia Roberts is having a moment, with her venture into TV with Amazon’s Homecoming, and her welcome return to form in Ben is Back, her first leading movie role in a few years. As the movie of the titular Ben (Lucas Hedges), her oldest of four children, an addict, that surprises the family with an abrupt return on Christmas Eve. The film sets up intriguing character dynamics and shifts tones between family drama and mild thriller as the forces some surprising turns, but ultimately it never quite veers away from being a well-done version of a mediocre movie that Lifetime specializes in.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what doesn’t quite work about Boy Erased. Written and directed and co-starring Joel Edgerton, it’s the dark, uncomfortable story of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), a young boy with overly religious parents who send him off to a conversion camp when he admits that he’s gay. Based on the true-story of Garrard Conley who wrote the book the movie is based on, the film tackles an urgent matter, is performed delicately and expertly, and is as harrowing as it is hopeful. And yet, there’s just something about it that feels a little unfinished.