Published May 10, 2014It's been over ten years now since cult favorite Elliott Smith died from a stabbing to the heart. Since then, there's been a steady release of fan-made tribute albums to the singer, each one seeming like a belated valentine to the misunderstood singer. At least posthumously, Smith is a Holden Caulfield-esque figure by way of Eeyore, an unlikely hero to the dedicated fans who love him for that.
Heaven Adores You, a kickstarter-funded documentary playing as part of Canadian Music Week, exists uncomfortably between those fan-made tributes and the insightful biographical books that have now been written about Smith. The film has no shortage of interviews with Smith's family, friends and collaborators, and makes use of Smith's music, but director Nickolas Dylan Rossi seems unsure of what to do with it all. The film opens with a snapshot of his fame, then abruptly delves into his death; after an opening sequence, a significant part of the film could pass as a documentary about Smith's early band, Heatmiser, but rather than looking closely at Smith's evolution from playing in a rock band to solo acoustic compositions, or saying anything substantial about it, the film focuses on the idiosyncratic inner politics of the band.
Predictably, the film shines when letting Smith speak for himself in interviews and through his music. One keeps wishing for the film to become Smith's own About A Son, the documentary about Kurt Cobain that relied entirely on interviews with the singer, allowing Cobain to narrate his life in his own personal way. Of course, that would be a much more difficult task for the soft-spoken, reclusive Smith, but the interviews with those closest to him don't do much to shed light on the singer.
Like Heaven Adores You, we might just have to rely on his music to capture his often-ethereal legacy.