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MOVIE REVIEW

'Death in Love'

A Holocaust survivor's sons struggle to break free of their domineering mother and her tainted past any way they can.

July 17, 2009|Gary Goldstein

It's no surprise that writer-director Boaz Yakin ("Fresh," "Remember the Titans") had to self-finance "Death in Love," a film so personal and uncompromising that it's hard to imagine even the most daring investor backing anything so bold. Though the end result is bound to polarize audiences, it's nonetheless a head-turning, visionary achievement.

Josh Lucas plumbs the depths of his tarnished golden boy persona as the complex, sexually haunted 40-year-old son of a volatile Holocaust survivor (a remarkable Jacqueline Bisset) who must keep his damaged family together while wrestling with his own all-consuming demons. Like his mother, whose manipulative affair with a Nazi doctor kept her alive during World War II, sex for Lucas' character (there are no names here) seems more about pain than pleasure, an assaultive act laced with addictive urgency. Yakin and his intrepid cast pull no punches portraying the film's many carnal encounters, filling the movie with a host of startling and powerful images.

As the family's musically gifted but depressive younger son, Lukas Haas, rail-thin and wraith-like, is gripping as a man-boy struggling to break free from his domineering mother. Adam Brody is also fine as Lucas' opportunistic business associate, as is newcomer Vanessa Kai as the pair's sexy but complicated boss.

"Death in Love" is occasionally pretentious but always riveting. Strap yourself in, especially for those gruesome flashbacks of Nazi medical experiments -- this is one endurance test that's worth the effort.

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'Death in Love'

MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent and graphic sexual content, nudity and language

Running time: 1 hour and 36 minutes

Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills, and Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino

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