Heaven Adores You

I was lucky enough to see Elliott Smith in concert at Metro in May 2000, and during one number the melancholy singer-songwriter hopped off the stage with his guitar and wandered through the audience. The intimacy I felt when he passed by may have been illusory, but I can’t say this documentary portrait got me any closer. Director Nickolas Dylan Rossi treads lightly when considering the more squalid aspects of Smith’s story, including his traumatic relationship with his stepfather, his heavy drug addiction after moving to LA in 1999, and his mysterious stabbing death four years later, which has never been conclusively ruled a suicide. Rossi is more successful in rendering the people and places Smith encountered as he restlessly moved from one city to the next: evocative location photography gives a strong sense of the indie rock scenes he inhabited in Portland, Oregon, and New York City, and there are affecting interviews with friends and colleagues who struggle to make sense of it all (as do I).