Arts Reviews

VIFF 2014: Heaven Knows What

Patty Osborne

I didn't realize how tedious life on the street can be until I watched Heaven Knows What (directed by Joshua and Benny Safdie), a film in which all the characters are young street people who spend their time saying fuck (and all its variations), stealing, trying to score drugs or alcohol, figuring out where they're going to sleep that night, and engaging in melodramas that, with variations, repeat over and over again.

Arielle Holmes wrote a memoir of her time on the streets of New York and the Safdie brothers turned it into a "docufiction" in which Arielle plays a version of herself (named Harley), and the other characters are played by either street kids or real actors that we don't recognize. Harley lives in a world of grime, drugs, alcohol and young men, most of whom are at least partially in love with her, and she and her friends or enemies (whichever they happen to be at the moment) carry on their sometimes noisy lives on the crowded sidewalks while ordinary people walk briskly around them.

Accompanied by a pounding soundtrack, the desperation never stops as desperate people search for what they need—to get high and to be loved— and as Harley misses several opportunities to move on we see that she is addicted not only to heroin but to the life itself.

One wishes for even a hint of light at the end of the tunnel but we see none, which is why it is comforting to know that Harley/Arielle was able to write about and act in her own story and therefore she must have, at some point, done something different.

An eye-opener that will stay with you long after the credits stop rolling.


Oct 9, 12:14, CINE

Buy tickets here.



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