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The lead, Arielle Holmes lived on the streets of NYC prior to this film and after being discovered by the filmmakers Ben & Josh Safdie, she wrote and texted them almost every situation and story she experienced via her heroin addiction, her tragic relationship with Ilya and life on the streets of NYC. When the film began shooting, Arielle Holmes got clean and remained clean throughout the shoot. See more »
In the scene after Ilya hitchhikes, he is seen dropping the paper surrounding his DayQuil bottle on the floor. In the next scene when he drinks from it again, the paper is still surrounding the bottle. See more »
You ain't gettin' rid of me, I ain't going nowhere.
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Captivatingly abrasive but too thematically aimless.
There are few films as unforgiving as Heaven Knows What. With its blistering soundtrack and rough in-your-face photography, you're either captivated or eyeing the exit. The Safdie brothers fictionalised retelling of Arielle Holmes life on the street, as played impressively by herself, is relentlessly bleak. The only joy is securing a dose of heroin. It doesn't keep track of names or days, just showing how she survives moment-to-moment. That kind of loose narrative thread void of character backstories can work if it holds together thematically, but Heaven Knows What isn't clear what it's trying to say besides showing the life of an addict. It latches onto hints of a theme of unrequited love, as demonstrated by Holmes' toxic relationship with her easy-to-loathe on-off-again boyfriend Ilya. Not that he has to be likable - the devastating first act where he encourages her to commit suicide is the film's finest stretch - but he's so loathsome that he drag the film down with him. Holmes has her own moments of venom, though it's balanced with vulnerability. Perhaps his purpose thematically is that he represents her relationship with heroin, but that's too on-the-nose and flimsy to bolster the film's quality. Instead, the film hinges on that docu-style commitment from both the directors and the cast. Certainly an emotionally exhausting experience with the aesthetics, I just wish it was more thoroughly explored on paper first.
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