Love Lies Bleeding

Directed By Rose Glass

Starring – Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris

The Plot – In 1989, reclusive gym manager Lou (Stewart) falls for Jackie (O’Brian), a bodybuilder who is passing through town en route to a competition in Las Vegas. As their love blossoms, dangerous secrets about each threaten their tranquil existence, in turn sending them down a darkly devastating pit of despair that condenses their hopeful outlook with each passing second.

Rated R for violence and grisly images, sexual content, nudity, adult language throughout and drug use.

Love Lies Bleeding | Official Trailer 2 HD | A24 (


The deepest and darkest depths of love are explored within an electrifying genre-absorbing thrill-ride that earns every square inch of its coveted R-rating, supplanting a blood-soaked homage to 80’s erotic thrillers that Glass revels in with unadulterated roid rage. Atmosphere is everything to her, from the gritty grime of the movie’s sweaty cinematography meant to constantly convey overhanging dread within the many secrets of its seedy characters, to the gruesome grandeur of the unapologetic indulgences to brutality, every impact of devastating consequence comes precooked with claustrophobic tension so scintillating that it seamlessly combines urgency and vulnerability to the builds of the various pay-offs, enacting the elements of unpredictability so effectively that I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen for a single solitary frame throughout. Also adding to this element is the script by Glass and co-writer Weronika Tofilska, who not only assess compelling ambiguity to the design of the various characters, but also explore the uniqueness of their relationship with the kind of lust that has rarely been given to queer on-screen love. This is not to say that the characters are written thinly or one-dimensional, but rather the feelings that each of them are holding a proverbial ace up their sleeve throughout the expansion of their time spent together, and when some of those secrets become unlocked by various unforeseen stakes and consequences, it shape-shifts each of them in ways that outline lived-in reality to their various constructs, with Jackie feeling dominant over physical confrontation, while Lou dominates towards the psychological variety. The aforementioned love isn’t sweetly sincere or charming as a result of vibrant personalities, but rather animalistic for how it’s simply initiated as two women with feelings for one another, before transitioning into some intensely gratuitous sex scenes that serve as the first of many metaphorical manifestations that the script has in utlizing the uncontrollable feelings that come with personal connection. The script is also great with providing answers to surmizing questions, but without any of the on-the-nose exposition or timely reveals that we’ve come to expect from contemporary cinema. Instead, Glass and Tofilska conjure as many combustible elements under one roof, in devious family or obsessive exes, that will inevitably come to blow, but at times that feel unforeseen, especially with a climactic third act where the power struggle between sides shift with the kind of uncompromising velocity that pays the pacing of the storytelling off tremendoulsy. Equally rapid are the tonal shifts within the complexion of the storytelling, which could feel disjointed and incoherent inside of weaker direction, but here feel naturally synthetic with one another, as a result of the metaphorical daydream of a world that Glass supplants for the movie here. While the film is ultimately grounded by a love story that continuously drives its narrative, the occasionally exaggerated emphasis of the imagery and situations does enable a world where anything feels possible, and with the ingredients of black humor, drama and especially horror that combine for something freshly integral to the duration of the experience, the film is able to transcend genre labels for an innovative approach that reflects the material valuably, from one desparaging situation to the next. In addition to creative elements, the work from this stellar ensemble constantly rise to the occasion, especially from Stewart and O’Brian, whose initial trepidation towards one another elicits believably evolving attraction and passion that fuels the fire for many of their questionable actions. Stewart in particular finds an abundance of bountiful heart and territorial empathy as a result of the isolation factors inside of the documentation of the established setting, changing only to lovesick adoration once Jackie comes onto the scene, and O’Brian’s biggest leap forward as a cinematic presence wields brittle vulnerability to the inside of a character who is built like a will oiled machine on the outside, wielding necessary dexterity and unbridled rage to the power of her capabilities that make her such an object of desire for Lou to constantly covet. Jena Malone even makes a noteworthy turn as Lou’s abused sister, who serves as the parallel to so many stoically empowering females that take charge of the proceedings. What the character lacks in bravery, she more than makes up for in gritty resiliency, made efficient by Malone’s eveloping tenderness that constantly deduces her to a victim in her own life, and it’s easy to see where Lou’s situation could’ve led her if she chose the wrong woman over her life of isolation, before meeting Jackie. Lastly, while not forcefully focused on the materialism of imagery within its 80’s period setting, the script instead opts for the realities within gym culture that were prominently relevant for the age, all in producing meaning to the development of the conflicts that fuel many of the fires of its female protagonists. Instead of familiarity in the soundtrack selections or wardrobe choices, the thematic impulses opt for instances of steroid use, obsession, co-dependency and toxicity that persist within enclosed domain, and while they merely begin there, they also leap to the traits of Lou and Jackie’s relationship, which only add to the conflicting nature of the audience interpreting their love as something vital for either lady.


Narratively, I wish the film supplied a little more time and development to the character of Jackie, especially since we come to learn so little about her backstory in contrast to Lou’s, which feels three-dimensional. It’s intriguing enough when she begins as the new girl in town, with the curiosity of Lou being drawn to her in what feels purely like a physical attraction, but as the film progresses and the girls learn more about each other, I wish more insight was paid to the other half of the scenario, especially since the limitations in making her a musclehead and nothing more require O’Brian to work overtime in her remarkable performance, just to get the character back to compelling. Aside from this lack of depth, there are also some holes of logic in the development of the conflict that become a little sloppy, mainly in the lack of persistence from law enforcement, which undercut the value of some of the stakes to the sequencing. This could easily fall under the disguise of the aforementioned metaphorical instances that make a lot of this film feel suspect to only existing in the minds of its leading ladies, but I felt that Glass and Tofilska could’ve done a better job in covering the logical leaps that momentarily took me out of the movie’s urgency, allowing us a firmer investment to the proceedings that occasionally border convenience. Aside from some script issues, I find myself being among the minority audience who weren’t fully sold on the film’s ending, primarily one larger than life scene that wholeheartedly embraces the metaphorical ways that the film depicts empowering love. While I totally understand what Glass and company were trying to convey in the way it utilized one particular character during this instance, I found it problematic towards releasing the entirety of build up tension and suspense, in turn leading to an underwhelming resolution that I wished would’ve remained completely grounded.

“Love Lies Bleeding” is another example of Rose Glass’ wide range of versatility, this time inside the depths of a queer love shotgun romance that never runs out of ammunition. While the script can occasionally border metaphorical in a way that’s faulty to the grippingly grounded reality of the overwhelming stakes and adversity, the believably rich work from Stewart and O’Brian keep the iron pumping, in turn cementing a boldly bracing and violent nightmare of noir that constantly keeps the blood pouring.

My Grade: 8/10 or B+

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