The Cape looks quite spectacular in the new HBO documentary “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA.” There are magnificent shots of the beaches, with their granular beige sand, their salt-washed wooden footpaths, and the kind of rigorous surf that promises to wash away your pain. There are heroic old houses with shingles that have endured decades of ocean gusts, and there are town centers that are quintessentially quaint. You can almost smell the fried clams.
But as the title of the film makes clear, all of the familiar beauty serves as a darkly ironic backdrop for an achingly sad story about the heroin epidemic. The truth is that, at some of the gorgeous Cape beaches in the film, there may well be a teenager shooting up in a rest room, her eyes dulling and her body exhaling as she sits back on a toilet.
Many of us have heard before the story in “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA,” in countless news articles about the growing numbers of deaths and O.D.s from the drug, in headlines about celebrities who’ve lost the battle, on TV magazines showing how painkillers can lead to the cheaper and easier-to-find heroin, and in movies and TV shows willing to portray the unvarnished truth. Much attention has been paid of late to the way heroin has undone Vermont, another region known for natural beauty. But I’m not sure we’ve ever heard the story of this plague told with the kind of intimacy and narrative power of “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA,”