REVIEW: Heroin(e) [2017]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


Rating: NR | Runtime: 39 minutes | Release Date: 2017 (USA)
Studio: Netflix
Director(s): Elaine McMillion Sheldon

“Getting high on heroin is to you what it would be like to kiss Jesus”

We too often see a problem in its worst form via “scared straight” videos that depict it in all its graphic detail for those living within its clutches. Drug use is the main culprit for this type of vehicle because the prevailing notion is to think knowing something can kill you is enough to provide you a reason to stop. But as we see with cigarettes, addiction moves our psyches beyond logic. It moves people’s minds to dark places wherein death may even appear to be a worthwhile escape from the seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty, prison, and relapse. So it means something to push that aside. While tragedy does unfortunately earn higher ratings and pays the bills, a feel good story done right can literally save lives.

Elaine McMillion Sheldon‘s Heroin(e) is a perfect example. It proves how a film can portray Huntington, West Virginia’s crazy heroin overdose statistic being ten times higher than the national average while also providing an optimistic outlook for the future. Rather than go door to door to watch as addicts given Narcan either wake up or die, Sheldon finds the humanity numbers too easily ignore. She puts a camera on Brown Bag Ministry founder Necia Freeman, Judge Patricia Keiller, and Fire Chief Jan Rader to reveal the silver lining of an epidemic that could risk bankrupting our nation. Suddenly the stereotypical “Jesus freak” giving food to prostitutes, hardline judge putting low-level users in jail, and first-responder providing a so-called “lifeline” are shone as the heroes they’ve always been.

We watch as unfortunate souls fail themselves and understand that these three women do what they must to earn the respect they desire as far as honoring the lengths they’re willing to go to help. It means something because we also see those who have climbed out of the grave to serve as examples for those who don’t believe it’s possible. The “war on drugs” isn’t about enacting laws that make it impossible to overcome what it is that got them there. It’s about finding solutions and creating paths to recovery even if it means accepting the majority of those caught in heroin’s wake will need five, ten, fifteen chances. Education and compassion supply hope to the hopeless. Save one life and he/she may end up saving ten.

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