‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Review

Things are getting out of hand in Rose Glass’s new and nauseating thriller

Yeah, yeah, yeah—Love Lies Bleeding filmed in New Mexico, let’s just get that out of the way. And though the location remains unnamed throughout Saint Maude director Rose Glass’s newest work, its panoramic vistas and oppressive light and dark environs go a long way toward setting a sickly tone. Then all hell breaks loose.

Said tone works almost perfectly for the meat of the film, one wherein an exhausted Lou (Kristen Stewart) manages a meathead-magnet gym circa 1980-something (you can tell by the shoes!). Lou’s sister (Jena Malone) and father (Ed Harris) also live in Whateverville, USA, though she doesn’t speak to her father and her sister’s abusive husband (a perfectly slimy and hateable Dave Franco) keeps our kinda-sorta heroine at arm’s length from the rest of the family.

Enter Jackie (Mandalorian alum Katy O’Brian, who dominates Love Lies Bleeding with vigor), a body builder type with her eye on winning a big upcoming muscle competition in Las Vegas. She and Lou fall in love hard and fast, and not just because of the gym’s steroid culture. But when Lou’s brother in law assaults her sister, Jackie snaps, leading to a clandestine standoff with Lou’s dad. It only escalates from there.

Glass, who also co-wrote the script, has a penchant for showing rather than telling. Never do we learn precisely what Lou’s dad is mixed up in, but fleeting interstitial scenes present him as some sort of gun and/or drug-runner. Harris slays here with the sort of dead-eyed terror he cultivated in 2005′s A History of Violence, and played against Lou’s brand of reckless disregard for health and personal safety, a sickening dynamic emerges. But make no mistake—this is O’Brian’s film, and her burgeoning ‘roid rage and wide-eyed naïveté are gripping if for no other reason than we almost want to protect her. The same goes for K-Stew, who so deftly performs anxiety and depression that you’d almost need to have experienced those disorders to pick up on the subtleties.

Love Lies Bleeding moves pretty quickly, too, but its economically paced storytelling keeps us on our toes. Is it a gangster movie? An homage to thrillers like Kill Bill? A love story? An anti-love story? Yes, all of the above. At its core lies a distorted moral about wanting better for oneself, too, and the lengths to which one might go for love, even if—or especially because—it’s that fucked up kind of love that burns with alarming intensity. This is a weird one, but imminently watchable.


+Thrilling performances; breathless yet expert pacing; oddly funny

-Relies on audiences being well-versed in film

Love Lies Bleeding

Directed by Glass

With Stewart, O’Brian, Malone, Franco and Harris

Violet Crown, R, 104 min.

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