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David E. Allen
The dysfunctional twenty-three years old Sarah takes her six year old natural son Jeremiah from the home of his beloved foster parents with the support of the social service to live with her. Along the years, the boy shares her insane and lowlife style and is introduced to booze and drugs and mentally, physically and sexually abused by Sarah, her lovers and her religiously fanatic family. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
'The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things' is a very dark tale of abuse, lost childhood and sometimes how adults can badly let down the children who look to them for love, support and guidance. It is very depressing with no 'happily ever after' ending but I think it is a film that we should all see.
The film revolves around the sad and tragic life of young Jeremiah, a sweet and well-adjusted seven-year-old boy who has a loving home with his foster family after being abandoned as a toddler by his teenage mother. Jeremiah's happiness is snatched from him when his mother comes back and demands her son be returned to her, which social services do despite this woman not being fit to raise a plant let alone a child. From that point on, his life descends into abuse, neglect and brutality as he is dragged around from place-to-place by his drugged-out mother and her endless supply of boyfriends. Then once the novelty of raising a child wanes, she promptly dumps Jeremiah on her rigid, authoritarian family who are Christian-extremists that believe it is acceptable to beat the badness out of children. In some ways, this lifestyle is at least stable and Jeremiah does fit in only for his mother to return when he is ten and the cycle of neglect and abuse to start all over again.
The quality of the acting is excellent though. Asia Argento, who plays Jeremiah's mother Sarah as well as scripting and directing this film, gave a solid performance as this selfish, unlikeable woman who has no concept of what she is doing to her poor son. However, it is the children who out-class everyone. Playing the role of seven-year-old Jeremiah, Jimmy Bennett is brilliant in depicting this innocent little child who is frightened, alone and in pain and doesn't know what he has done to deserve this. Cole and Dylan Sprouse share the role of ten-year-old Jeremiah and through them we see a boy who is jaded by what has happened yet still retains a sense of childish innocence. Having only see these two in cheap Disney films where their acting was wooden, it was surprising to see they do have talent within them given the proper material and director.
There are many difficult and harrowing scenes in this film as we follow this child on a path that would physically and emotionally drain even the most hardened of adults. The scenes where Jeremiah was sexually abused are tastefully handled (as best as a film can 'tastefully' depict child rape, anyway) but the scenes are still very hard to watch. I know there is controversy in the story because it was supposedly based on a true-life novel only for the author J.T. LeRoy to confess it was all a lie. However, who really cares as while LeRoy may not have suffered, in reality, there are no doubt thousands of real Jeremiahs out there who have been let down by their pathetic-excuses of parents and social services. This film may not be about LeRoy but it is about these other children who are abused and worn down every day.
This film does require the viewer to have a strong stomach but it is important in highlighting the realities of child abuse and it makes you realise that children are not always better off with their biological parents. Some kids do need to be taken away and placed in a home far, far away from their real parents if they are to have any sort of happiness, comfort and stability.
48 of 52 people found this review helpful.
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