Seven Days of Streaming

Seven Days of Streaming: The Subdued Intelligence of Lucas Hedges

From the emotional heights of Manchester by the Sea to the quirky cuts of Moonrise Kingdom, here's how to curate your own Lucas Hedges season at home in seven key films

ISeven Days of Streaming, we guide you in curating your own mini film season based around an actor or director with a particularly eclectic, underseen, or unappreciated filmography, spun over seven days of programming.

No one does tender resignation quite like Lucas Hedges. Although a fixture of mainstream movies since he was sixteen, Hedges burst onto the scene as grief-stricken youngster Patrick Chandler in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, exuding an unforgettable masculine angst and receiving an Oscar nomination in the process. Now, at 23, he is one of Hollywood’s most interesting and in-demand character actors.

A quintessential softboi, Hedges’ career has benefitted particularly from studios’ recent interest in depictions of sensitive young men, a type he has come to define better than any other actor of his generation. And, counting Greta Gerwig, Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson (twice) among the prestige filmmakers he has already worked with, Hedges’ CV is like that of few other actors his age. With upcoming projects alongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Soderbergh – we’ll leave his Quibi show aside – that journey is set to get only more interesting.

Whatever comes next, this group of seven should introduce you to Hedges’ eclectic, promising early career and – hopefully – get you as excited for what’s next as we are…

 

Day 1: Boy Erased (2018)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

It’s not easy being a gay teen in Arkansas. It’s harder when your parents are Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. Boy Erased, based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, tells the poignant story of a 19-year-old student sent away to a gay conversion camp where abuse is commonplace and homosexuality something to be “corrected.” Hedges does an excellently competent job in the mild-mannered lead role – the first top billing of his career – wearing Conley’s repressed perspective like a familiar shirt. Although sometimes a little unadventurous, Boy Erased is infinitely stronger as a result of Hedges’ tactful and reverent work.

 

Day 2: Lady Bird (2017)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Reportedly Hedges was given the chance to play any young male part he liked in Greta Gerwig's irresistible coming of age comedy-drama Lady Bird, choosing well with the theatrical, short-lived love interest Danny. His and Saoirse Ronan's romantic saunters through the flowers rank high among the film’s many joys – the behind-the-scenes clips are somehow even better – and Danny’s poignant mea culpa when the relationship comes to an end is a real show of strength from the actor. Floating easily around the stage during Immaculate Heart’s performance of Merrily We Roll Along, Hedges gives the impression of a real Prince Charming – just not the one for Lady Bird.

 

Day 3: mid90s (2018)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Playing the cynical older brother Ian in a film about a young boy’s unconventional coming-of-age, mid90s sees Hedges cast as the authoritarian figure to Sunny Suljic’s vulnerable Stevie. Although playing against type, it’s a part he envelops unnervingly well. Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is chock-full of great performances, but Hedges hold his own as the quintessential threatening outsider, a doubter with his own demons. Brilliant cinematography and a memorable soundtrack accentuate the nineties-ness of Hedges’ time-specific character, but all credit for this unique performance belongs to Hedges and Hedges alone.

Day 4: Honey Boy (2019)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Hedges is by no means the centre of attention in this autobiographical drama directed by Alma Har'el, but he’s still able to pull off his best work since Manchester by the Sea. Playing a 22-year-old Otis Lort (inspired by writer Shia LaBeouf's challenging 2017 stay in rehab), Hedges' canny performance opposite Noah Jupe as a starry-eyed 12-year-old Otis brings to mind Paul Dano and John Cusack's dual performance as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. And like Cusack, Hedges’ easy adaptation to the character drives home Honey Boy’s broader themes of forgiveness and unbreakable attachment. The unforgettable final shot – a moving tableau of everything the film has built towards – is particularly strengthened by Hedges’ boundless confidence and maturity. He is once again closer to the side lines than we might like, but it's never worked better than it does here.

 

Day 5: Ben is Back (2018)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Directed by his father in this sober drama about an opioid addict’s impromptu return home, Hedges in Ben is Back once again asserted himself despite the eminent star power of parental figures played by Julia Roberts and Courtney B. Vance. If the tonally similar Boy Erased tested Hedges’ ability to portray someone just about holding it together, Ben is Back challenged the actor to embody a person who has got good at pretending. Hedges’ methodical performance as a kid whose life is dangerously close to the edge never indulges in showy stereotypes or histrionics. More sullen than Beautiful Boy, Timothée Chalamet’s somewhat flashier addiction drama also released around the same time, Ben is Back is better suited to Hedges’ skillset, if a little closer to his acting comfort zone than it could've been.

 

Day 6: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Surely the jewel in Lucas Hedges’ (albeit newly minted) crown, Kenneth Lonergan’s sombre family drama tested the eighteen-year-old against the weightiest of dramatic standards. He passed with flying colours. As the morose teenager Patrick Chandler opposite Casey Affleck’s emotionally stunted uncle Lee, Hedges was granted a rare chance to play bigger than his opposite number. Hedges shines as the confused boy challenged by the monotony of his new loneliness: the simple act of opening the fridge door triggers a guttural reaction, a physical crumbling with staggering poignance. Manchester by the Sea showed us the depth of emotion the actor can so easily tap into, and what an eighteen-year-old consummate actor looks like.

 

Day 7: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Maybe we should’ve been less surprised to see Hedges as the antagonist in mid90s considering his turn as Sam Shakusy’s arch-nemesis in Moonrise Kingdom six years earlier. Named “Redford” after the golden-haired Hollywood icon, Hedges’ foil for the adorable young couple at the centre of Anderson’s film is a classic spoilt kid – exactly the type who takes the Khaki Scouts a little too seriously. Hedges pulls off his po-faced antagonist with aplomb, telling the escaped Sam with bratty confidence, “We’ve been deputised: you’re gonna come home, peacefully or not.” Quirky, irreverent comedies are evidently a good place for Hedges to show off the intelligent – sometimes even excessive – sincerity that has defined his best roles. He should do them more often.

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