Love Lies Bleeding (2024) Review

Love Lies Bleeding (2024) Review

Love Lies Bleeding (2024)
Director: Rose Glass
Screenwriters: Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Dave Franco, Ed Harris

Following premieres at both Sundance and the Berlin International Film Festival, Rose Glass’s follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut feature film Saint Maud opened the Glasgow Film Festival in 2024. Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Glasgow Film Festival (and fifty years of its home, the Glasgow Film Theatre), Love Lies Bleeding feels like an appropriate opener that represents what the festival is: a celebration of film that shows interesting, unique cinema that is bound to start a conversation. In the best and worst ways, Love Lies Bleeding is bound to do exactly that.

The latest from Rose Glass follows Kristen Stewart’s Lou, a reclusive gym manager who falls hard for Jackie (Katy O’Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder who’s heading to Las Vegas to pursue her dream. Their love soon leads to violence as they get pulled deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.

With a perfect horror director name like Rose Glass, and with a debut effort that proved to be one of the greatest horror films of the last decade, many were under the assumption (or simply hoping) that Glass’s follow-up would be another horror. Love Lies Bleeding is not, but that is not to say that it fails to defy expectations. If anything, the director breaking away from horror only allows her to impress even more.

Glass presents us with a movie that is perhaps best described as a twisted new take on Thelma & Louise. Mix some Coen Brothers influence in there and you have a recipe for one hell of a ride. Like Blood Simple meets Mandy, Love Lies Bleeding is the ultimate cult flick.

Though Glass steps away from horror expectations, that is not to claim that her horror roots cannot be seen throughout the film. Very quickly Glass sets up her world as somewhat mystical, not quite reality (though it may be presented as such). Set in small-town America, the location of the film feels extreme in the way it’s presented: impoverished, glim, bleak. Every character we see, down to small roles barely seen on screen, are presented as harsh stereotypes – abusive husbands, hicks, and so on. 

Such extreme stereotypes only allow for the two leads – two female lovers, one a muscle-bound bodybuilder – to stand out even more. Just as these women stand out in 1980s small town America, not just for their sexualities but their bodies too, the men around them loom twice as large. Ed Harris as Lou’s father, a local criminal kingpin whose shadow hangs over Lou and whose past haunts her; Dave Franco as JJ, husband to Lou’s sister whom he regularly beats and whose own shady dealings intertwine the two lovers throughout; even the law enforcement who scope out Lou and Jackie for the entire film, all of whom are men whose presences are felt for large periods of the film.

Given the strong messages of acceptance and resistance at the heart of Love Lies Bleeding, it is disappointing that the female characters feel somewhat underwritten. This is less of an issue for Kristen Stewart’s character, who feels less like she lacks depth and more like her character lacks answers. In this sense, however, the mystique that the film builds for Lou is much more pleasing than any answers ever could be. It is in the character of Jackie that things are a little weak: portrayed as a strong woman who has a chequered past with men, there really isn’t much more to her. Not only is this disappointing, but it becomes jarring when her own actions feel as though they aren’t befitting of a character we know little about.

As far as strongly written characters go, it is Anna Baryshnikov’s Daisy that stands out above the rest. A hopeless romantic constantly pining after Lou, Daisy’s love for Lou leads her deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of the film’s events, crafting one of the most tragic cinematic side stories we have seen in a long time.

Luckily, the characterisation here isn’t the key factor that determines enjoyment. Instead, the sheer mystery surrounding many of the events in the film, and the mystical feeling at the centre of it all, creates a world where we don’t ask any questions and simply go along for the ride.

Bad-ass, weird as hell, and infused with some body horror here and there, Love Lies Bleeding is definitely a film that will hit hard for the right audience but won’t be for everyone. With her sophomore feature, Rose Glass proves that Saint Maud wasn’t a fluke and that she is a director whose future is sure to be just as eclectic and excellent as many of her influences.

Score: 20/24

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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