“Heaven Knows What”: Lacerating drama lets homeless junkie tell her own story

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“Heaven Knows What” has its Madison premiere at the UW-Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall, at 7 p.m. Friday. R, 1:34, three stars out of four. FREE!

Brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie make films about people that we wouldn’t really want to be around in real life, and keep us uncomfortably close to them, force us to really look at them, until we see them.

“Daddy Longlegs” was a drama about a harried divorced dad so bad at parenting that his neglect borders on abuse. In “Heaven Knows What,” we’re attached to the hip of a 19-year-old homeless junkie, Harley (Arielle Holmes), caught in an endless and vicious cycle of addiction. When the movie starts, she’s panhandling (“spanging” in street parlance) to get enough money to buy razor blades to slit her wrists. You don’t get much lower than that.

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