Hayley Obfuscation’s review published on Letterboxd:
A vicious circle. The dregs of society, almost scum of the Earth by choice. My goodness so much about this was brilliant. The wraparound areas, the cut opening in the start to being reopened in the end. The close up of the slashed face from Hellraiser clip, to the close up of the burning face that absolved all the pain in one scene. All of this to simply start again in the little corner of a Dunkin Donuts.
While fixated on the central character of Harley (and her demoralizing relationship w/boyfriend Iiya), this isn't a standard linear film. Its predisposition is to toss you right into their lifestyle. No beginning. No middle. No end. Just the life they're all entrenched in. These aren't pretty characters you'll often love to hear stammer along. The type of film goes behind causal boundaries, into a transcendent opus of despair. For as much as all involved here give off a repugnant disposition, we revel at how clingy, how needy the very same people are while under the spell of the drug. Harley not a moment to be alone throughout any of this. Bouncing from one damaged male soul to the next. The vicious circle eventually morphs into a spiral. It wraps around her, Iiya, and the rest. Nobody gets free. Nobody changes their lives for the better. There's no triumphant phony tale here. The addictions are stark, plain as day. You question what makes em return to zero. All you're left saying is "heaven knows what" can make em feel this is worth it. Jeeeeeeez I loved this.
Glorious soundtrack to hit the stride of all the highs & lows feeling inside Harley and the rest of the junkies. The ambient glow putting the back alleys & squatting locations in a trance. Ear rattling house music to show the rush of the heroin in their system. Outstanding.
One of the finest directorial efforts to hit me in some time. Every shot, every key area of purpose on where the characters were walking to, sitting down by, or laying down on. That focus is peering as the voyeuristic eye over the intrepid travels of heroin addicts in NYC. While last year's over the top (and very good) effort of Tangerine showcased a wild, yet humanistic side of Los Angeles, California, here in Heaven Knows What, we're seeing a harrowing, unflinching perspective of New York. A side that feels like it is in a whole different world. Where bags of heroin is the be all end all. Fast food restaurant restrooms are five star hotel rooms to achieve your ultimate high. Stolen items are bartered for quick cash that is spent in the blink of an eye. It's all so very dystopian in a bustling, working metropolitan environment. Amazing how the world can pass all of this by when it is happening right there next to the happy, functional lives.