The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things review

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Weak heart? Don't watch this movie. Easily offended? Don't watch this movie. Fed up with CG blockbusters and black-and-white moralising? Watch this movie. It's shoddy in places and frequently comes off as low-rent Larry Clark, all the shock value but half the artistry, but hell, it at least makes you feel.

Based on hustler-turned-writer JT LeRoy's cult autobiographical novel, it's the kind of raw material that demands a fearless guardian. Director/star Asia Argento is that person. The headstrong daughter of Italian horror director Dario, she's already invited public scrutiny of her own dirty linen with directorial debut Scarlet Diva, the tale of a starlet who vacuums drugs, fucks like a Viagra-popping bunny and fends off "pussy hungry" producers.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things also deals with the seamy side of life, battering viewers with horror after horror as a child is warped before our bloodshot eyes. Booed at Cannes 2004, it's brave enough to withhold passing judgement on its characters, finding good as well as bad in society's rejects, while the performances are strong and Argento demonstrates some impressive flourishes behind the camera.

Paedophilia angle aside, Heart will also rustle up headlines for marking the acting return of Winona Ryder in a cough-and-spit cameo, the shamed actress' love of LeRoy's book propelling her to lobby for a part. And, while we'restar-spotting, Peter Fonda also pops up in a pivotal supporting role as Sarah's pa, his fundamentalist preacher subjecting Jeremiah to a new kind of abuse - religious brainwashing.

Structurally unsound, occasionally lacking psychological insight, Heart has mild angina but pumps with lifeblood. Watch it and feel your temples throb.

Flawed but hard-hitting child abuse drama featuring a bold, feral performance from Asia Argento. Be warned: it's an acquired taste.

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