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The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Review

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Jeremiah (Jimmy Bennett and later Dylan and Cole Spouse) is dragged away from loving foster parents and returned to his abusive mother Sarah (Asia Argento). Working as a truck-stop prostitute in the southern states of America, Sarah takes him on the road, where he is subjected to a succession of deadbeat surrogate fathers.

★★★★★

Asia argento, the multi-tasking daughter of Italian horror maestro Dario, co-writes, directs and takes a lead role in this take on J. T. LeRoy’s autobiographical book of stories. Championed by the hip likes of Chuck Palahniuk, LeRoy’s candid recollections of his harsh childhood are both bruising and beautifully observed.

Argento’s movie retains the raw quality of the source material, although the roughest edges have been smoothed out. For example, in contrast with the general grimness, Argento makes the decision to leave the film with an open, if not overtly happy, ending, rather than adopt the book’s grim denouement.

More problematic is the amount of ground she opts to cover (there are ten stories in the novel), which leaves the narrative feeling a bit squeezed in places. Style-wise, though, Heart does successfully match the spare, lyrical quality of the prose, and the naturalistic performances (most impressively the three child actors) give it an authentic feel.

Trying a bit too hard to be a modern cult classic, but it’s clear that Argento’s heart is in the right place.