Thursday, 27 August 2015


A pointless film chronicles a pointless existence in Ben and Joshua Safdie's Heaven Knows What. And that's not criticism, it's recognition of the Safdies' formal mastery, and their empathetic acuity, though while they do possess the skill to turn so bleak and distressing a story as this into a compelling feature, as pointless as it may appear to be, one does occasionally wish for something more substantial to latch onto. The viewer slides down the slippery surface of this film, a gossamer-thin layer of sorrow and sheer hopelessness, hoping that the filmmakers might pierce through this layer at some point and pry deeper within; alas, we fall off its withering edge in the end, to see as we only could from a distance - its slight surface was all the substance it ever had. Perceptively edited to distort the passage of time as we understand it, we who have roofs over our heads, Heaven Knows What truly is an exceptionally expressive film, employing the full array of technical tools available to its team of dedicated indie filmmakers that it might depict its scenarios with unflinching honesty. That they do so without the pretense to impose upon their film any social commentary or metaphorical subtext is admirable and likely wise - their subjects themselves have few concerns beyond their basic, brutal needs. Arielle Holmes, whose own experiences the film is based directly upon, is first among equals in a cast of mostly non-pro performers, each and all of them both grounding the film in the kind of tonal accuracy it requires and elevating it in the process. Heaven Knows What has been made with a singularity of vision among all of its contributors - a difficult vision, no doubt, but a fine one.