Heaven Knows What : Raw and Too Much Life

heaven knows what heaven knows what

Being delinquent is such a curse in the society that we live. There are rules and structures and norms and anyone who does not conform to them is left to a life of being a social outcast. While something is to be said about taking responsibility and ownership of ones actions, yet the ‘human society’ that we have all created, does little to help and reach out to people most in need.

Heaven Knows What is a complicated narrative about the lives of Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), Hurley (Arielle Holmes), Mike (Buddy Duress) and their friends. They are all into drugs, high pretty much all the time and live life on the fringes of the ‘normal’. The film follows their lives as they move from one place to another looking to buy drugs and shoot up whatever really wipes them out and takes them away from reality. With this there is verbal, emotional abuse, violence, attempts at ending one’s life and other really self-destructive habits.

Based on the memoir Mad Love in New York City, filmmakers Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie can be credited for creating a raw documentary style depiction of the life, people who live with addiction have to endure. There is little questioning, analysis, discussion or reasoning of why and how they came to be in that state. Ilya and Hurley’s love story plays out oddly, as Ilya has this strange hold on Hurley and makes her do things in the name of love. Even though Hurley has Mike, who helps her when and however he can, and has feelings for her, she keeps going back to Ilya. It’s only towards the end when Ilya leaves her sleeping on a bus and heads to nowhere, and ends up burnt alive in a fire that Hurley tracks her way back to Mike.

Pretty bereft of a storyline, the film is only meant to show the raw, authentic and desperate state that someone suffering from addiction goes through. The representation of only white people is never lost on me. In this case I am not sure how their white privilege can be contextualized, as there is no backstory that can be accessed, understood or critiqued. Perhaps I sympathized somewhat with the characters in the film, at other times I sat wondering at the purpose of life and the world we have created, when such desperation and a cry for help meanders around us.

The only way to reconcile with such reality is perhaps to justify our insulated lives, and that people like Ilya, Hurley and Mike know no other normal. While our insulation may be an easy escape, it does little for the world that we inhabit and tend to call our own. Watch Heaven Knows What for its disturbing look at real life.

Heaven Knows What is playing at the PHI Centre until June 20. Click here for details.