Harley (Arielle Holmes) is a heroin-addicted homeless teenager, who spends her days panhandling on the streets of New York City. When she is not trying to score, Harley pursues mad love with her on-off boyfriend Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), who doesn’t always return her affections.
Heaven Knows What is an adaptation of the, as yet unpublished, memoir “Mad Love in New York City,” written by the film’s star Arielle Holmes. The film is essentially a fictionalized re-enactment of Holmes’ real life experiences as a homeless teenager in New York City.
The film is a “fly on the wall” look at a few days in Harley’s life, with no real beginning or end. The closest the film has to a story arc is the relationship between Harley and Ilya, which is marked by Harley remaining to have feelings for Ilya, despite the horrible way he treats her.
Probably the most interesting aspect of Heaven Knows What is its use of synthesized music, which often contrasts with what’s happening on-screen and is sometimes a bit jarring. This artistic flourish somewhat elevates the film above being merely a gritty realistic portrayal of street life in New York City.