A harrowing blend of fiction and raw vérité, after watching Heaven Knows What you’ll feel like you have some insight into the lives of the homeless young.
Harley (Holmes) is a young heroin addict living on the streets of New York. She has an intense, abusive relationship with Ilya (Landry Jones) – another addict. Mike (Duress) is a smalltime dealer who warns Harley off Ilya – and his attempts give an element of grim humour to the film.
This is an intense watch, because Harley’s life is full of desperately deadzone days in which she struggles to find drugs and a place to sleep. The camera stays close to her wide-eyed intent face but all three leads are very credible, with Holmes majoring in manipulative whining, Duress in exaggerated self-important public performances and Landry really giving off a damaged and dangerous vibe.
The soundtrack features some opiated soft-synth music from the late Isao Tomita to give us a taster of the state Harley and her friends are seeking.
The film is based on Arielle Holmes’ own experiences. Josh and Benny Safdie met met her a year or two after the events depicted in the film and got her to write a memoir, Mad Love in New York City, which became the source for this film. Holmes also had a part in American Honey.
Review by Colin Dibben
Heaven Knows What is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 23 January.