The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator


‘Heaven Adores You’ reveals a gentler side of Elliott Smith
Photo by Submitted
A still of Elliott Smith from “Heaven Adores You”

Directed by Nickolas Dylan Rossi, “Heaven Adores You” is a solicitous exploration of the life and music of beloved indie-folk artist Elliott Smith

This documentary presents in mellow bits and pieces: a mirage of warm interviews with Smith’s friends and co-musicians, clips from different stages of his music career and footage of the three main cities he resided in.

Along with the carefully curated collage of visuals, Smith’s songs are weaved throughout the film with cautious intention, flagging certain emotions and transitions through the story it tells.

Grounding the documentary in Smith’s solo music enables viewers to understand the soft, seraphic lightness Smith exudes, despite his origin in indie-rock. “Say Yes,”  “Son of Sam” and “Everything Means Nothing to Me” are among Rossi’s picks for the film.

Story continues below advertisement

According to the official “Heaven Adores You” press kit, Rossi wanted to stray from retelling the over-saturated, “sad sack genius” narrative that the media often seems keen to relay. 

If Rossi’s intention was to place Smith’s music and his many contributions to the music scene in Portland, and later on the general indie-folk and indie-rock communities, front and center, he transcended my expectations. 

Rather than placing emphasis on the mysterious nature of Smith’s premature death, “Heaven Adores You” shows just how much he lived in his 34 years on earth. 

Rossi doesn’t ignore Smith’s mental struggles but avoids speculating on the cause of his death or mentioning it an obscene amount to “bait” viewers, which I saw as a very necessary sign of respect. 

Another detail in “Heaven Adores You” that I was quite fond of was Rossi’s inclusion of numerous (over 30) interviews. 

These moments worked to provide the viewer with an idea of how Smith’s band members, friends, family members and colleagues perceived him and their loss of him. 

Although some of the interview guests initially appear hesitant to open up about their shared experiences with Smith, by the end of their debut in the documentary their fondness for him is apparent. 

One of the reasons for my voyage into Smith’s music, which led to my discovery of this film, is my admiration of the singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. She often cites Smith as one of her most influential musical inspirations, which prompted me to explore more of his music. 

In fact, during an interview with NPR, Bridgers said Smith’s music is “like The Beatles to me, and I mean that in every way. If someone doesn’t like his music, I actually feel like I’m not going to agree with them about anything. It informs everything I like.”

To give this quote some context, The Beatles were one of Smith’s largest muses, so Bridgers comparing him to the band is a compliment of incredible significance. Bridgers is far from being the only artist with ties to Smith, though.

Anyone who favors indie films, music and literature is sure to recognize some familiar faces (Hello, Jon Brion, composer of Lady Bird’s score) in “Heaven Adores You” and realize that Smith’s music joins innumerable communities. 

Seeing Smith in other recognizable talents is a reminder of his continuous influence, and was an excellent choice on behalf of Rossi. 

If you feel inclined, you can stream “Heaven Adores You” on Amazon Prime or check out the trailer on the official website. The film also has an official soundtrack that can be streamed on Apple Music, Spotify or YouTube

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Maggie O'Brien
Maggie O'Brien, Freelance Writer
Maggie O'Brien is a second-year English-creative writing and English education student. This is her third semester on The Spectator. She adores many things but has a soft spot in her heart for calico critters, rain and books with cracked spines.

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *