(directors: Benny Safdie/Josh Safdie; screenwriters: Ronald Bronstein/Josh Safdie/inspired by the memoir Mad Love in New York City by Arielle Holmes; cinematographer: Sean Price Williams; editors: Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein; music: Ariel Pink/Paul Grimstad/Isao Tomita; cast:Caleb Landry Jones (Ilya), Arielle Holmes (Harley), Buddy Duress (Mike), Necro (Skully), Isaac Adams (Isaac), Diana Singh (Diana), Eleonore Hendricks (Erica), Yuri Pleskun (Tommy, Drug Dealer), Benjamin Antoine Hampton (Antoine); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Oscar Boyson, Sebastian Bear-McClard; Radius; 2014)

“Upsetting indie heroin addiction film, that proves to be a fascinating watch.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Safdie brothers, Benny & Josh (“Lenny  Cooke”/Daddy Longlegs), direct this upsetting indie heroin addiction film, that proves to be a fascinating watch despite its gloomy subject matter. It’s based on the film’s lead Arielle Holmes’ memoir of her time living on the streets of NYC as a teen-ager and is set on the Upper West Side. She’s shown as an addict hanging around Sherman Square, a place that used to be called Needle Park.

It’s a depressing junkie film that gives you a real-life look at the harrowing life of a street junkie, as it blends fiction in with reality.

The brazen directors find creative ways of saving this genuine but bleak film from becoming unbearably grim by focusing on their riveting lead angel-like character and her angst-driven romance with another addict (Caleb Landry Jones), an emotionally non-giving lover, and her ability to survive such a dreadful experience as being released from a mental hospital to the streets after attempting to commit  suicide.

The street-life scenes are poetical moments that are laced with hard to watch scary moments. It’s a risky story, one that tries to find the best in its misfit characters so viewers can recognize them as fellow humans.

It reminds one of the 1971 classic “The Panic in Needle Park.”

Heaven Knows What (2014)

REVIEWED ON 6/17/2019       GRADE: B+