“A sober-living safe house is neither safe nor sober in Stinking Heaven, the fifth feature (and fourth in 3 years) from director Nathan Silver,” begins Jesse Knight at Movie Mezzanine. “In New Jersey circa 1990, a young married couple, Jim (Keith Poulson, Listen Up Philip) and Lucy (Deragh Campbell, I Used to Be Darker) run a commune providing refuge for recovering drug addicts of any age who pass the time making and selling bathtub kombucha (‘fermented healthy drink’). They play games and bathe in the rain…. Their collective fashion sense might be described as ‘Manson Family couture.’ They take turns reenacting the worst moments in their addictions, purging their respective rock bottoms to the reward of limp applause. It’s Short Term 12 by way of the Marquis de Sade.”
“As in his other works, Silver gets amazing performances from his actors, both professional and non, and turns a seemingly benign reality quickly and quietly into an unsettling one,” writes Kiva Reardon in the Notebook. “Though a brisk 70 minutes, Silver never forces the narrative, choosing perfectly timed beats to reveal details of each character’s background, while still leaving room for ambiguity.” She also notes that “Silver filmed on an Ikegami HL-79E video camera from the era, which made the trendy time period less faux-grunge and more a case study in realism with its grainy texture.”
Stinking Heaven has “one of the most distinctive looks of any recent American indie since Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess,” adds Brandon Harris in a dispatch to Filmmaker. This “is the best yet of Silver’s consistently promising and uneven five features thus far.”
“Silver, who replicated the group’s living arrangement with his cast and crew for the duration of the shoot, conjures the unmoored hysteria and knife-edge psychological reversals that ensue via liberal improvisation with his committed ensemble,” writes Guy Lodge for Variety. “Whether scenes tilt toward very mordant farce or gut-stabbing trauma, there’s a compelling sense—crafted or otherwise—that the actors are driving the tone from scene to scene, with Silver and his incisive editor Stephen Gurewitz determining the emotional transitions between them.”
At Twitch, Ben Umstead sees similarities with the work of Canadian documentarian Allan King, particularly “his so-called actuality dramas like Warrendale and Come On Children, which focus on communities in isolation. As a filmmaker Silver is in pursuit of actuality through the play-guise of fiction…. Brimming with a putrid effervescence and an ensemble cast willing to dig deep into the filth of life, Stinking Heaven further confirms Silver’s talent as a great conductor of chaos.”
Meantime, in the Hollywood Reporter, Austin Siegemund-Broka notes that Breaking Glass has picked up North American rights to Silver’s Uncertain Terms (2014).
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