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Julia Roberts gives one of her best performances in emotional 'Ben Is Back'

Matt Shiverdecker Special to the American-Statesman
Julia Roberts stars in "Ben Is Back," a movie about drug addiction and unconditional love. [Contributed by Black Bear Pictures/TNS]

Here is an interesting new release available now from cable and digital providers as well as a title that has recently become available for streaming.

Video on Demand

"Ben Is Back": Julia Roberts was criminally overlooked during awards season for one of the best performances of her career in this brutal drama from Peter Hedges ("Pieces of April"). She stars as Holly, a mother who has done all the right things over the years and still has seen her oldest son Ben (Lukas Hedges, "Manchester by the Sea") become addicted to drugs and have to be sent away to rehab. On Christmas Eve, Ben shows up at home saying that he was allowed to leave rehab for the holidays. In trying to determine if this is even true, Holly must handle her conflicted feelings of being thankful to see her son and simultaneously worrying about the safety of the rest of her family, including two younger children she has with her new husband, Neal (Courtney B. Vance). While it is a difficult watch, this film captures the power of addiction and family dynamics when there is an addict in the fold in ways that are rarely seen on screen. As Holly's journey to protect all of her children takes a surprising turn, Roberts' performance is substantially turned up and she gives it everything she has. It's a raw and emotionally vulnerable look at a mother's unconditional love that impacted me long after I left the theater. If you're looking for a feel-good movie, keep on moving. (Cable and digital VOD; 4K Ultra HD available)

Also on streaming services

"Free Solo": This outstanding feature from National Geographic took home the Academy Award for best documentary this year. Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin turn their cameras towards Alex Honnold, a highly talented and stubborn rock climber, on his quest to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without any safety harnesses or gear. This isn't something he decided to do out of the blue; he spent years working up to it and hoping that he could be the one to conquer it. After all, people have been trying to climb this formation since the late '70s with varying degrees of success. There are portions of El Capitan (like the Dawn Wall) that have previously been climbed. But in 2017, Honnold became the first person ever to free solo climb the mountain, and this film documents him every step of the way. It's a nail-biter — even though I knew he had been successful, there were multiple moments when I was positive I was about to witness the end of his life. This is thoroughly engaging and a terribly anxiety-inducing experience. (Hulu)