More than 40 years ago, the movie Panic in Needle Park highlighted the heroin epidemic on the Upper West Side. Those days seem to be long gone, but a new movie explores drug addiction and desperation on many of the same streets.
The movie Heaven Knows What is based on a book by Arielle Holmes, a homeless teenager who used to sleep in Central Park and on the steps of churches on the Upper West Side. The neighborhood features prominently in the movie, according to the New Yorker.
The action takes place in venues and on streets instantly recognizable to a New Yorker, such as a pharmacy in the West Eighties, streets in the West Sixties and Seventies, the Central Park band shell, Riverside Park, subways and bank vestibules, cafés and fast-food joints. The experience of watching “Heaven Knows What” transfigures the geographical and architectural face of the city, as well as the people—in particular, the young street people who are seen sitting and begging behind handwritten cardboard signs, an activity that, in the film, is called “spanging” (rhymes with “changing”).
Holmes falls in love with another addict named Ilya, and their painful love story makes up most of the movie. Just last month, Ilya died in Central Park of an overdose — we covered it here.
Read more about Holmes here and check out the trailer below:
It’s currently playing in limited release — in Manhattan it’s only running at the Sunshine Cinema.