The next fix
On the streets with New York’s homeless addicts
This vivid, swift-moving account of homeless young drug addicts in New York City has no big-name stars and so it may be doomed to its own kind of marginality at the box office. But Heaven Knows What is a very good movie in several respects, and it’s especially sharp in its portrayal of life on the streets as a darkly picaresque series of minor episodes and futile escapades.
Based on Arielle Holmes’ writings about her own experiences in this milieu, the film follows an amorphous group of young people and especially a character named Harley (played by Holmes herself) through the rigors and lulls of their hand-to-mouth, flim-flam existence.
Co-directors Josh and Benny Safdie film it all with a brisk sort of street-level realism, and excellent performances by Holmes and Buddy Duress (as a gawky DeNiro-esque type named Mike) are central to the peculiar emotional electricity of a film that is both detached and intimate, sympathetic and rigorously unsentimental.