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Heaven Burns (2010)

Heaven Burns follows a young man as he attempts to navigate first love in a backdrop of suburban adolescent drug addiction.
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Clayton Stocker Myers ... Ryan (as Clayton Myers)
Whitney Nielsen ... Kat
Spencer Garrett ... Tom
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Greg Bell Greg Bell ... Kemper
Lauren Elizabeth Carter Lauren Elizabeth Carter ... Meagan
Shaun Paul Costello ... Drunk
Tony Dorsey Tony Dorsey ... Charles
Charlie Dreizen Charlie Dreizen ... College Tour Student
Sierra Duren Sierra Duren ... College student
Kristi Faye Kristi Faye ... Hot Chick
Alexandra Findley Alexandra Findley ... Hot chick
Joe Gariffo Joe Gariffo ... Drunk
Christian Grier ... Drunk Kid
Tracie Jules Tracie Jules ... Susan
Bob Kaplan Bob Kaplan ... Party Go-er
Learn more

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Heaven Burns follows a young man as he attempts to navigate first love in a backdrop of suburban adolescent drug addiction.

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User Reviews

Justin Beckenheimer's Heaven Burns: A Stellar Debut
17 December 2012 | by rachelhennick-557-851443See all my reviews

This aesthetically flawless, brilliantly constructed drama about a straight-laced high-school grad, sent into a tailspin by a bewitching young woman with an insatiable taste for the prescription drug "Contin," seizes the heartstrings and holds on for dear life. Unpredictable. Passionate. Disarming. Heaven Burns is a masterfully crafted story with outstanding performances and realistically confronting scenes exposing the U.S.'s festering prescription drug epidemic. Films about drugs are all too often energy-sappers dwelling on the corrosive effects of narcotics or dallying a little too long at a nauseating L.A. party. Make no mistake. This is not a shallow re-hashed 80s coke-tale (a Less Than Zero). Here is an intriguing glimpse of "Contin's" seductive power as a temptress devouring prey without mercy. The story's thread is taut and steady, mesmerizing from beginning to end.

Ryan, authentically portrayed by Clayton Myers, is an instantly likable all-American guy with big dreams and small change. He comes from a single-parent home in a lower middle-class Maryland suburb and wants to study architecture. He's convinced he'll save up the cash for tuition by the end of summer: All it takes is perseverance, hard-work as a supermarket stock boy, and a temporary stint as a dope-dealer. He's well on his way to reaching his goal until he meets Kat, played by the enchanting Whitney Nielsen.

From the first crack of her luscious smile, it's clear Ryan is in trouble. His "Princess" hails from the posh side of town with wealthy parents who remain ignorant of their daughter's dangerous vices. As Kat opens the door to Ryan's wildest imagination, he slowly comes unhinged. Enmeshed in the folds of her decadence, he finds himself entangled in her web of addiction, totally under her spell. As he feeds the charming Kat's insatiable appetite for sex and drugs, the couple somehow manages to elicit empathy from viewers, reminding us that drug addiction can get the best of anyone; nice people sometimes make poor choices. Ryan's love for Kat is the real deal. He sees through her reckless behavior to the wounded child lurking within and feels compelled to rescue her, even if it means jeopardizing his own life. The message is at once universal and urgent: Lay off the "Contin." Yet, Heaven Burns avoids tedious clichés and probes deeper with real sensitivity. The details embedded throughout the film are a true work of artistry. Ryan and Kat's on-screen chemistry intoxicates with provocative imagery and unerringly romantic camera-work. From the moment the couple exchange marijuana smoke in a pouty lip-lock, they are fused.

One of the film's many strengths is its pace. The camera's eye lingers on their lovers' dance enticing the viewer to bask with them in drug-induced euphoria, to inhale their ecstasy, to be swept away with them higher into rapture until gravity ensures their inevitable plunge into darkness. Ryan and Kat's seemingly unbreakable bond lures the viewer with magnetic force and aching suspense. It becomes apparent that watching them come unraveled is going to hurt like hell, but it's too late to quit; from the start Heaven Burns has you hooked.

The film's compelling team of performers is not up-and-coming: In Heaven Burns, they have arrived. Veritable actors include Joe Welkie III and Greg Bell as Ryan's irritatingly goading friends (Evan and Kemper) and Cheryl Scungio as Ryan's mother (Cheryl). Spencer Garrett (Hitchcock, Casino Jack, Yes Man) brings Kat's raging father (Tom) to life. In a lovable portrayal of Ryan's flirtatious boss, Caroline G. Pleasant ("The Wire") as Missy, dishes out timely lines and priceless expressions seasoning Heaven Burns with just enough humor. The cast is tenacious and this is a tribute to editors Charlie Anderson, Eric Cacioppo, and award-winning director Justin Beckenheimer (Co-founder, StrataTek Studios; Editor, Under Armour) who wrote the screenplay when he was just 23. Heaven Burns is the winner of multiple awards from the Acton On Film Festival and Filmshift Film Festival.

This is a welcome reprieve from the doldrums of the overly-processed films cramming the bowels of the movie industry today. It penetrates the rotting underbelly of the middle class suburbs with razor-sharp truth and initiates a much-needed dialogue on a burgeoning problem. Heaven Burns imprints the memory with a searing climax and a surprising conclusion. In spite of brief nudity and coarse language, this film is a must-see for every high-school kid and young adult in America.

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Release Date:

27 July 2010 (USA) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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