Heaven Knows What
Directed by Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Starring Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, Eleonore Hendricks, Yuri Pleskun and Buddy Duress
A young heroin addict roams the streets of New York to panhandle and get her next fix, while her unstable boyfriend drifts in and out of her life at random.
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★★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Someday, I'll write about this "film."
Someday, I'll write an actual review;
a long, and hopefully well constructed one,
voicing my thoughts on its replication of reality.
For now though, it's much too raw, much too close of a memory.
I never thought that I would actually see my friends again:
the ones who died, the ones who I lost to chemicals,
to attempts at escape.
Never knowing what they were risking,
the hurt they would cause,
the sadness that would spawn from their whitening faces,
their lack of blood flow, their ends.
Heaven knows what?
Heaven knows nothing.
This "film" is no film at all.
It's a mirror, and I want to break it,
so that I never have to look into it again.
Never see their faces or hear their shouts,
their reminders of what is black and can never be fought.
★★★★★ review by Gustaf Ottosson on Letterboxd
Nr 10 on All Films I Saw 2015 (Ranked)
Part of the Stockholm Film Festival 2014
That Heaven Knows What currently holds a 5,8 score on imdb is a total joke. This is the most gut punching, authentic and realistic account of homeless, hardcore drug addicted young people that you're ever going to see.
The acting performances are flawless and I wonder how they can portray the broken lives so accurately, without being addicts themselves. This goes for the whole ensemble. Especially Arielle Holmes shines bright in the lead role.
Don't watch this movie and expect a linear storyline with a resolution, as Heaven Knows What merely offers a glimpse into a world most people will never know.
The film is brilliantly scored, with eerie and haunting electronic music, that accentuates the, already, hard to watch scenes.
Currently holds the nr 4 spot on the ranking of movies I've seen this year (roughly 500).
★★★★½ review by Blain LaMotta on Letterboxd
Drugs are destroyers of all that is sensible. They expose weakness and infect everything you hold dear. That doesn't mean they can't be a learning experience however, especially if they can inspire cinema this raw and electrifying. The path toward understanding can eventually lead to change, but you have to get your hands dirty first. Heaven Knows What is such an increasingly grimy experience, that it is hard to shake or even accept at first. It blurs the lines between reality and fiction with such acute precision, that you feel as though you lived it. Arielle Holmes, in a performance of astonishing emotional complexity, draws from her own personal hell in order to evoke the authentic feeling of being trapped by that which you love. When you are trapped, you are stripped of all control. It is that sensation of helplessness that the Safdies evoke with compassion and shocking gravity. The restrictive camerawork, probing synth, and seedy milieu of New York City helps compound that atmosphere to the point of suffocation. The relief is that we can escape at any point relatively unscathed. Others are not so lucky.
★★★★ review by Neil Bahadur on Letterboxd
More an addendum to my last writeup, which focused too much on the form - anyways, the sign from the theme park in Good Time: "Romance Apocaplyse" would be a fitting alternate title for this film, and what remains striking after this viewing is that both films are actually about the ramifications of love - though more dominant here than in its successor. As Iggy Pop croons in the end credits of the following film, "the damned always act from love." HKW is remarkable and distinctive for this reason: it's both super and anti-romantic. We see the necessity for objectivity - being well meaning is meaningless unless you can see the outside. Love cannot save the world, because of its subjectivity. Romanticism destroys you: love is a part of life, not its meaning, and to make the mistake of believing that it's the latter is a suicide mission. Heaven Knows What is actually a hood romance, while the following is hood capitalism. And as we'll see explicated even moreso in the next film, being well-meaning doesn't stop one from being exploitative - they have nothing to do with each other, and more often than not, the latter is confused as the former.
When people critique the Safdie's as exploitative, it fascinates me. Would you rather the people on camera have no voice at all? In a world which creates and destroys those who have fallen by its wayside, of course love becomes an addiction, and not love itself.
★★★★ review by Matt Singer on Letterboxd
The word "unflinching" comes to mind. And feels kind of inadequate.
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