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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, August 01, 2016

Movie Review - Heaven Knows What

Heaven Knows What (2015)
Starring Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, and Buddy Duress
Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

"Uncomfortable" is perhaps the best descriptor of the Safdie Brothers' Heaven Knows What, the semi-autobiographical tale of the film's star and first-time leading lady Arielle Holmes who portrays Harley, a homeless twentysomething in New York City addicted to alcohol, heroin, and bad men.  As the film opens, Harley is desperately trying to please her on again-off again boyfriend Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones) after she has done something to disappoint him.  His response to her:  slit your wrists and die to prove your love for me.  In her drug-induced haze (a constant state for her), Harley does just that and after a trip to the hospital, she decides that time apart from Ilya may be what she needs.  She moves on to Mike (Buddy Duress) and he isn't much better for her, providing an abundance of heroin and convincing her to steal in order to make money for more drugs.

Heaven Knows What is devastatingly realistic, dropping its audience right into the mix and jolting us into the horrific environment of young homeless people in New York City.  There's certainly a sense that first-time actress Arielle Holmes has lived through the horrors onscreen as the semi-autobiographical nature would attest as she imbues Harley with a jittery anxiousness that makes the audience just as anxious watching the story unfold.  While I appreciate the realism, it doesn't exactly make for a pleasant or recommendable viewing experience.  I was onboard until the film hit the halfway mark (about forty-ice minutes in), but then I found the film to be repetitive.  While I believe the repetition is purposeful showing us a never-ending struggle of the homeless to find places to sleep, buy and sell drugs, and earn money however they're able, it grows tiresome, perhaps in part because of the low budget, unobtrusive, almost-documentary style of filmmaking.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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