An intense drama with brutally deep performances, Steve Sage’s newest film, “Junkie Heaven”, is one that will stay with you for a while. Bringing back the dramatic flair of “Requiem for a Dream”, Lee Kolinsky’s writing portrays a haunting image of what happens when a junkie goes too far. With incredible lighting and sound design, this film is easy to fall into. Set in the modern period, the audience follows Doyle (played by a talented Joseph A. Halsey) as he drifts off into a heroin fueled dream and meets a being who claims he is not human who needs Doyle to do a task for him. In return, Doyle is promised a guide through the afterlife, as it is assumed the drugs have taken him over. As Doyle sets off to enact on his word, we are briefly introduced into his life, and then shoved face first into his experiences.
I am personally not a fan of those films that go into the aspects of PTSD and the remnants of the experiences of those soldiers who have experienced it, especially in the Iraq war. It is hard to comprehend for those who have not experienced it or those who have not spent time with someone who has been affected by it, and more times than not, it is portrayed incorrectly onscreen. However, Kolinsky pulls it off respectfully and quite well, and it is played remarkably by Halsey. As a post-war veteran who has fallen by the wayside, Halsey’s depiction of Doyle allows those emotions to boil through the surface, and he does not take it over the top.
The production value of this piece is quite obvious. With intense lighting, the heroin junkies appear to be more strung out and lost in themselves. This gives a great setup to the great performances. The sound design is flawless in the execution, and really allows the extremity of the story to play through appropriately. Overall, the technical aspects of the film really shine through and allow the audience to focus on the important stuff- the story.
The other actors in the film do an excellent job backing Halsey up, especially Sal Rendino, who plays Alexander, the being who appears to Doyle in the midst of his binge. Their biting banter back and forth really helps develop Doyle’s motives and background, and even push him over the edge at points. Also pushing Doyle forward through the madness is his co-addict, Faz, played by an extraordinary Nicole Vogt-Lowell. Faz’s mentality is the perfect trigger for Doyle to set forth on his journey, although the film could have been done without her segments, and the story wouldn’t have necessarily changed. She does add a bit of lightness and humor to the piece, which is very much needed.
Would I watch this film again? Similar to “Requiem for a Dream”, this is a film that I could only watch once. The amount of emotional strain it has the ability to put on the audience may not be for everyone, but it definitely was a great film to watch.
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