Heaven Adores You

Movies, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

When an artist dies in as inexplicable and gruesome a circumstance as genius singer-songwriter Elliott Smith – two almost certainly self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest – it’s easy to let it overshadow every other aspect of their career. So however much this documentary tribute tries to celebrate Smith’s achievements, the dark stuff is never too far under the surface.

The film’s highlights are culled from a stash of performance footage – shakycam gig recordings, on-tour goofarounds and, of course, his notorious performance at the Oscars, performing the song ‘Miss Misery’ from ‘Good Will Hunting’. Some of the talking head interviews are also compelling, offering insights into Smith’s childhood, his friendships and his recording methods.

But exactly how much insight is questionable. As ‘Heaven Adores You’ unfolds, Smith’s dark side – his depression and drug use – becomes increasingly the focus, and the second half of the film seems to consist almost entirely of sad-eyed friends and acquaintances saying: ‘I knew he was messed up, but I didn’t think there was anything I could do’, which does get repetitive. Also, the film’s assertion that Smith was undone by fame – that he never wanted the attention that followed that Oscars performance – feels lazy and unconvincing, especially given the poppy, mainstream bent of his later records.

Still, as a capsule of one man’s remarkable life this is effective and often moving – and it’s always great to hear those beautiful songs.

By: Tom Huddleston

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Release details

Cast and crew

Director: Nikolas Dylan Rossi