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Heaven Knows What is an American Drama movie that is directed by siblings Joshua Safdie and Ben Safdie. The film’s main actor is Arielle Holmes and it is based on her past experiences as a heroin addict who was homeless living in the New York City streets. It is a breathtaking film with thick tension although the plot is flat because hardly anything happens.
The film is stylised with the same old drug addicted life of street dwellers to create a surprising fresh production. The film is exhilarating, creative and is among the best of the drug addicted drama movies produced in a long time.
The characters in this movie lead their lives openly on the streets of New York City. The movie is like a street theatre, and the characters are seen in their frequent arguments with their public disputes only receiving a glimpse from the busy New Yorkers who are minding their own business. The directors’ main focus is Harley played by Arielle Holmes, who is a heroin addict and is seriously infatuated with Ilya played by Caleb Landry Jones, a fellow heroin addict. When we first see Harley, she is in the process of pleasing her cruel and impervious friend with a self-destructive act that threatens to tear them apart.
This is a problem that is typical of ladies who are in their early twenties, a boyfriend who is a jerk, controlling, dominates her heart and brings her nothing but grief. He drives her to the point where she attempts to commit suicide, and this leads them to break apart for a while.
Harley’s life is full of hard labour, mischievous heroin dealers and frequent confrontations with her junkie friends who are always in fights. The side characters are brilliantly used by the directors: there is no back story on how they ended up in this sorry state. All that matters to the Safdies is the matter at hand, the current situation, the characters only care on how to get some small change for a quick fix.
I know I speak for many individuals who had sworn they would never waste time watching a film about New York kids hooked on heroin. Heaven Knows What is quite surprising because it has style. For instance, many shots are taken from a distance using long lenses, and this makes our subjects remain in sharp focus with the environment being blurred.
New York is used as a character in this film, but you won’t see the popular landmarks. The focus is on the large New York population that acts as a disinterested supporting player. The movie is realistic and extraordinary in the manner in which everyone just walks past the drama caused by the couple. This is a common occurrence in New York City: nobody cares about a couple like Harley and Ilya.
The film is clearly the best of the Safdies’ work, by using Holmes as the lead actor: the directors produced a masterstroke because these are her past experiences. Holmes produces a leading role in this film to create an absorbing performance.