Can't Be Heaven (1998) poster

Can’t Be Heaven (1998)


aka Forever Together

USA. 1998.


Director – Richard Friedman, Screenplay – Dario Fagnani, Producers – Cal Naylor & Charles O’Brien, Photography – Mark Woods, Music – Greg Barton, Production Design – Robert Henderson. Production Company – Charles O’Brien Productions.


Bryan Burke (Danny Perillo), Diane Ladd (Nana Gina), Ralph Macchio (Hubert Dearborn), Michelle Trachtenberg (Julie Ziff), Rachel Ticotin (Maggie Perillo), Jamie Williams (Philip Marconi), Michael Galeota (Archie Larocca), Annie Abbott (Miss Winter), Rachel Robinson (Miss Viola), Matt McCoy (Mike)


Following the death of his father, young Danny Perillo grows up with his mother and aging grandmother. Danny falls for Julie, the girl who lives next door. Instead, Julie is attracted to the new guy at school, the handsome Archie, who keeps picking fights with Danny when Julie is not looking. Danny receives advice in how to handle the situation, as well as lessons in how to play the saxophone, from the mysterious Hubie who appears by his father’s graveside.

Can’t Be Heaven is a little-seen film that attracted zero attention either when it came out or since. The reasons for such are almost certainly its thorough blandness.

Can’t Be Heaven sets out to be a film about growing up in an Italian-American neighbourhood. As such, the filmmakers at least create a detailed and clearly personal vision of such a childhood. However, the results make for a thoroughly insipid film. The sincerity of the Coming of Age tale and childhood portrait is crippled by banal direction and colourless photography.

Moreover, the story, while it clearly sets out to tell a very personal story, is never really about anything – the film never develops anything that could be construed as a plot. The film ends on a fantastique supernatural note, one that draws upon an old-fashioned sentimentalism and comes ladled with treacle in director Richard Friedman’s hands.

The cast of semi-recognisable faces includes Matt McCoy; Rachel Ticotin as the mother; an unrecognisable Ralph Macchio, once The Karate Kid (1984), as the ghostly saxophonist; Michelle Trachtenberg, later to become a regular on tv’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) as the girl-next-door love interest; and Diane Ladd, who gives a performance of forced affectations as the cliche of an Italian matriarch.

Director Richard Friedman has dabbled in genre cinema a number of times before with low-budget films like Doom Asylum (1987), Scared Stiff/The Masterson Curse (1987), Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989), Ground Zero (2000), Dark Wolf (2003) and Born (2007).

Full film available here

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