HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie
Cast: Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, Necro, Buddy Duress and Eleonore Hendricks
MPAA Rating: R (for drug use throughout, pervasive language, disturbing and violent images, sexuality, and graphic nudity)
Runtime: 94 Min.
Drug films rarely have nice polite openings.  Heaven Knows What opens with a scene that sets the tone for this film.  During the first few minutes of the film we watch a young girl, Harley (Arielle Holmes), try to convince her lover, Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), to accept her apology.  She even asks if her death would make him accept her apology.  This goes on for several minutes while we are forced to listen to some of the worst 70’s era bad sci-fi soundtrack music I have ever heard.
Harley begs to come up with the cost of a package of razor blades.  When Ilya gets in her face and tells her to do it while he watches, she does.  He is as shocked as everyone else watching.  She does not die and is taken to the hospital.  Due to her suicide attempt, she ends up in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital.  When she gets out, she hooks up with her friend Mike (Buddy Duress), a low level drug dealer that she can get drugs from. 
These two individuals are not likeable in any fashion.  They work their way through days, Harley begging for money to buy drugs and the occasional bottle of liquor while Mike is busy selling drugs.  They spend their nights sharing a dingy apartment with an elderly lady who apparently has no clue of the drug usage in her home.  All she asks is $15.00 a day per person and for everyone to keep quiet so her neighbors don’t find out.
Following these two is boring.  Harley’s addiction seems to be getting worse.  Mike has no ability to deny her.  The story, bad as it is, goes downhill when Harley reconnects with Ilya.  These two are as bad for each other as any couple I have ever heard of.  He continually tests her and she responds like a whipped pup time and again. 
They decide to get out of town but they can’t even leave town properly.  Ilya changes his mind and gets off the bus while Harley is sleeping.  He makes his way back to the city where he hides in an abandoned building to escape the cold.  He dies in his sleep when a fire is started by the candles he lights upon his arrival.  Harley gets off the bus several miles (and a change of drivers) later though she has to cause a ruckus to make the bus driver pull over.
This film is a combination of a bad script, a terrible soundtrack, and acting that makes your skin crawl.  This story is inspired by a book written by the leading lady, Arielle Holmes.  If the book rambles and stutters the way the film does, I would not recommend anyone reading it.
Films about drug use have been made almost as long as films have been aound.  Films like Opium (Germany) and The Tong Man (USA) from 1919 showed us that drugs are a danger to everyone.  Over the years we have seen both dramas and comedies made depicting the drug cultures of many different times in our history.  Some were well received and some were utter failures.  This film, Heaven Knows What, is one of those failures. 
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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