Ben Is Back is a 2018 film directed by Peter Hedges and starring Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, and Courtney B. Vance. It tells the harrowing story of a mother who tries to help addict son when he comes home for Christmas on a break from his sober living facility. But Ben is not out of harm’s way and things quickly unravel, endangering the entire family. Recovery Unplugged wrote, “The film depicts with excruciating accuracy the painful and undignified places to which addiction takes sufferers and the power of a determined parent to affect change, even when their optimism seems futile. Few movies about drug addiction capture the struggle of this piece.”
Beautiful Boy is one of the few movies about addiction to focus on meth, rather than heroin, and tells the story of an academically gifted teenager (Timothée Chalamet), who falls down the rabbit hole of addiction despite everything his grief-stricken father (Steve Carrell) does to free him. Based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, this 2018 drama takes an honest look at the anguish and desperation that families dealing with addiction face. Rotten Tomatoes viewers gave it a 69% rating.
6 Balloons tells the gripping, high-stakes drama of a loved one—in this case, a sister—at the end of her rope, but still feeling that she has to do more to help her heroin-addicted brother. As reviewer Brian Tallerico wrote, an addict is “like a drowning man, able to take you down with them as they flail their arms and fight for air. Rarely has a film captured this better than [director] Marja-Lewis Ryan’s 6 Balloons. …We’ve seen countless stories of junkies trying to get clean, but how does someone sever the tie to someone who just keeps pulling them under again and again? Abbi Jacobson and Dave Franco star. Produced by and for Netflix, the film received an 86% (4.5-star) rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The House I Live In is a 2012 documentary produced for PBS’ Independent Lens. Director Eugene Jarecki examines the 40-year “War on Drugs” and its vastly disproportionate impact on neighborhoods of color. The “war” has resulted in more than 45 million arrests, $1 trillion in government spending, and made the United States the world’s largest jailer; yet drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available than ever.
“It’d be one thing if it was draconian and it worked. But it’s draconian and it doesn’t work. It just leads to more,” says David Simon, creator of the HBO series, The Wire.
The film recognizes drug abuse as a matter of public health; examines how fear of being perceived as “soft on crime” leads politicians to call for ever harsher sentencing, despite persistent evidence of the failure of harsh criminalization measures; and tells heartbreaking stories from the war’s “front lines,” which have led to the incarceration of 2.3 million American men and women.
“The most acclaimed documentary of 2012,” The House I Live In received rave reviews from sources as varied as The New York Times, Forbes, and the Salt Lake Tribune. Sundance Film Festival described it as “Comprehensive in scope, heart wrenching in its humanity, and brilliant in its thesis, Jarecki’s new film grabs viewers and shakes them to their core. The House I Live In is not only the definitive film on the failure of America’s drug war, but it is also a masterpiece filled with hope and the potential to effect change. This film is surely destined for the annals of documentary history.”