BEN IS BACK (15)
The return of a recovering drug addict to the fold throws festive preparations into disarray in Academy Award-nominated writer-director Peter Hedges' sensitively observed drama.
Anchored by powerhouse performances from Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, Ben Is Back explores the devastation wrought by addiction on various members of a fractured New York family, who are divided about whether to support a wayward teenager after a litany of painful relapses and mistakes. The film's emotional heartbeat is the seemingly unbreakable bond between a fiercely protective mother and her 19-year-old son, who repeatedly pushes away his biggest supporter for fear of letting her down. Again. Writer-director Hedges has a sharp ear for snappy dialogue and gives the impressive ensemble cast the time and space they need to convincingly plumb the depths of their characters' inner turmoil.
FISHERMAN'S FRIENDS (12A)
A true-life story of musical success against the odds inspires director Chris Foggin's feelgood fish-out-of-water drama.
Scripted by Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth, Fisherman's Friends takes considerable artistic licence with the remarkable rise of eight men from Port Isaac in Cornwall, who signed a record deal in 2010 and became the first traditional folk act to land a top 10 album in the UK charts. Foggin's film trawls for the essence of the crabs-to-riches fairy tale and delivers a decent haul of laughter and sentiment interspersed with foot-stomping musical performances. Some of the cast's Cornish accents are, frankly, lost at sea and a lukewarm central romance across the cultural divide is hastily engineered to provide the film with one female voice to counter the macho posturing. Supporting characters are sketched in broad strokes, diminishing the emotional impact of one scene that brings the villagers together in a time of sombre reflection.