Heaven Knows What

A movie you feel in your bones. Mad love and restless addiction are foregrounded and handled with obvious care and truth, no small achievement given the miserablist portraits too commonly doled out in contemporary independent cinema, but what I think the Safdies are really after is this idea of the beauty behind a common hustle, the phantoms that haunt us and drive us mad, and the deranged and alien soundscapes that make weird sense of it all; there's also the hurling of a cellphone that morphs into an exploding firework across a dark sky, a story of two people told through simple editing. I could talk about the opening which has the camera essentially hugging Harley and Ilya during this shared intimate moment on the concrete (all we really need to establish their history together), or the long take in the psych ward, but I'll leave those fresh for anyone who may be reading this that hasn't seen the film yet. Instead, I just want to briefly talk about a moment about midway through the film where Harley and another junkie Mike are selling drugs to some random dude who rides a motorcycle. Mike goes off for a few minutes and leaves Harley with the guy, who at her request, ends up going up and down the street two or three times on his bike while performing some stunts for her. I still tense up as if he's going to wreck, or perhaps a car will come out of nowhere and demolish him, but it never happens. A lesser film might reverse this nearly insignificant scene that exists just to show us the often tedious lives of these characters. The Safdies manage to surprise by not giving us anything extraordinary or shocking; just life as is.