Heaven Knows What (Blu-ray) (2014)

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Released 22-Sep-2015

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Film trailer
Trailer-x 4 for other Accent releases
Deleted Scenes-x 3 (7:17)
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 92:48
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ben Safdie
Joshua Safdie
Accent Film Entertainment Starring Arielle Holmes
Caleb Landry-Jones
Buddy Duress

Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Isao Tomita

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, and high impact drug use
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Harley (Arielle Holmes) is a young heroin addict living on the streets of New York. She loves fellow addict Ilya (Caleb Landry-Jones) but as Heaven Knows What starts they have had a fight. While Harley is desperate to make amends, Ilya is cruel and dismissive so when Harley offers to slit her wrists to prove she loves him Ilya tells her to stop talking and just do it. She does, but does not die; instead she is taken to hospital and a psychiatric ward. Released after being treated, Harley still loves Ilya but falls in with Skully (Necro) and dealer Mike (Buddy Duress) who can supply her with her drugs. But the manipulative Ilya is still on the scene and Harley is set for another betrayal.

     Heaven Knows What from Josh and Benny Safdie is raw, uncompromising and confronting filmmaking. It is an adaptation of Arielle Holmes’ book Mad Love in New York, itself based on her life as an addict on the streets. Holmes, as Harley, is thus playing herself and it is a brave and compelling performance; she is an unsympathetic character in the midst of unsympathetic characters and the film is unflinching in its depiction of the results of drug use and the lengths to which the addicts will go to get enough money for their fix, dealing, stealing, hustling and hassling people on the streets. The film looks and feels genuine: as well as Holmes it uses real addicts and street people, off-hand improvised dialogue and Steadicam hand-held cameras that provide jerky footage, often focused close up on faces which are sometimes partly out of frame, and often shot with moving vehicles or pedestrians between the camera and the characters. The result is a remote, fly on the wall feel showing real life. The discordant synthesiser score also serves to distance us from what is on screen.

     Heaven Knows What is not a documentary but it is essentially plotless and not an easy watch. The film does not delve into the backgrounds or motivation of the characters, or how or why they came to be on drugs and on the streets, it does not look for reasons, preach, try to excuse, sympathise or justify the lifestyle. Instead the film shows unflinchingly life as it is on the streets. It also offers no solutions and the conclusion of the film is low key and resolves nothing. However, with Ilya gone there is presumably some hope for Harley. If the film is only partly accurate his influence upon Harley / Arielle was totally destructive and it is interesting that the film, in the end credits, contains the statement “In loving memory Ilya Leontyev”.

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Transfer Quality


     Heaven Knows What is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in 1080i using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Shot with a Steadicam on the streets and tenements of the boroughs of New York, often at night, Heaven Knows What was never going to be pristine. The colours are dull and muted, brightness, contrast and skin tones vary and the film has a gritty, soft look. While the blacks are reasonable, shadow detail is often indistinct, although detail on the faces is sharp, showing clearly every sore, scratch or dirt mark.

     There is a degree of motion blur against railings and at 1:39 there is a black mark that looks like someone accidentally walked partly into the frame!!

     There are no subtitles available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, surround encoded.

     Dialogue is not always clear due to muffled delivery, but I don’t think anything important is lost. The surrounds did produce some effects, such as engines and street sounds, but mainly carried the synthesizer score. I did not notice anything directed to the subwoofer.

     The score is by Isao Tomita plus music by Paul Grimstad, Ariel Pink, Headhunterz and James Dashow. The result is a synthesizer score that was discordant and alienating, thus suiting the film.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues; I suspect most of the dialogue was impromptu and recorded on location.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Trailers (7:54)

     These trailers play on start-up: Six Ways to Sundown, Child of God, Q and Irreversible. The same trailers can be selected from the menu plus the trailer for Heaven Knows What (1:49).

Deleted Scenes (7:17)

    Three lengthy deleted scenes featuring Mike and Harley, Skully and Harley and an interaction with an angry New Yorker on the street.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray of Heaven Knows What adds English and Spanish subtitles; I am unable to find out if it is 1080p so for now call it a tie. There is currently no Region B UK version listed.


     Heaven Knows What is not an easy watch. The film takes no sides and offers no solutions and is an unflinching and realistic depiction of life and drug addiction on the streets of New York featuring real addicts and a brave and compelling performance by Arielle Holmes. It should be compulsory viewing for anyone who still thinks drug use is glamorous.

     The video and the audio are acceptable, given the method of filming. Deleted scenes and trailers are the extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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