Heaven Adores You premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival last Monday, and I had the privilege of seeing its second screening on Wednesday. I suppose I don’t have to repeat for the millionth time that Elliott Smith has been one of if not the most influential artists of my life, but I just did, because it implies how significant it was for me to experience this beautiful film. Director Nick Rossi appeared after the film for a brief Q&A with the audience, and after the inevitable question about Elliott’s death came up, he described his intention for the film as being more of “a love letter” to Elliott and his music, which summed it up perfectly.
Since this doc was created by fans, for fans, and funded by fans (via Kickstarter!), the final product was really so wonderful. Its main purpose was to showcase the musical life of Elliott—his influences, the musicians and friends he played with, the music scenes of where he lived, how his music developed and changed while always staying true Elliott, and always flooring anyone around who heard him play. Though it was chronological, it was not quite so biographical, at least not as in-depth as some might have hoped; if people head into this film looking for answers to questions about his life or his death, they won’t find them here. What they will find, though, are many laughs and smiles, because really Elliott, despite whatever demons he harbored, was really such a goofy, fun-loving guy. Of course the doc also incites a lot of emotional reactions, especially if you’re as invested as me. I don’t think there were more than a couple minutes of silence in this film, as it was always soundtracked by deep, deep Elliott cuts, unreleased instrumentals and alternate versions, as well as interview clips, all masterfully edited together seamlessly. Definitely one thing that particularly struck me were the scenes of the urban environment coupled with Elliott’s instrumentals—they were visually stunning to match the music and the feeling, and paced very well with the story. Sometimes in my everyday life I forget to revel in those moments of listening to music while taking in the world around me, effectively combining all your senses, and this film did a neat little thing of doing it for me.
Although I did cry within the first five minutes because it starts by mentioning his death, and then I cried when I heard Elliott’s sweet little voice in the first interview clip, and then I cried again at the end when it got to 2003, by the end I was crying tears of affection and happiness because Elliott Smith was such a lovely soul, and the way that his music affected so many people in similar ways is a truly magnificent thing. I hope this movie gets picked up at more film festivals soon so that more people can see it. It is a perfect tribute to a beautiful man who was taken too soon, whether you’re a fan of his music, or just a fan of music in general, really. If you get the chance, go see it.