Love Lies Bleeding

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Love Lies Bleeding
dir Rose Glass
scr Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska
prd Andrea Cornwell, Oliver Kassman
with Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Orion Carrington, David DeLao, Hilary Fleming, Eldon Jones, Keith Jardine, Jerry G Angelo
release US 8.Mar.24,
UK 3.May.24
24/US 1h44

harris franco malone
bfi flare film fest

Is it streaming?

o'brian and stewart
Cleverly using excessive audio and visual flourishes to heighten the mood, filmmaker Rose Glass takes the audience on a pitch-black adventure that propels forward without mercy. The film is dark and often intensely gruesome, but there's a terrific undercurrent of raw emotion even in the more outrageous situations. So as it closes its grip on us, the movie becomes a skilfully lurid, heady mix of romance, murder and bodybuilding.
In rural New Mexico, Lou (Stewart) works in a warehouse-sized gym and relishes her identity as an outcast from her harsh family. She especially loathes her mullet-headed low-life brother-in-law JJ (Franco), who violently abuses her sister Beth (Malone). Meanwhile, JJ has an encounter with muscly runaway Jackie (O'Brian), offering her a job at the shooting range where he works for Lou's grizzled dad (Harris). Lou is instantly smitten by Jackie, helping her prepare for a Vegas bodybuilding championship. But things take an unexpected turn after Beth ends up in hospital and Jackie's roid-rage kicks in.
Heightened filmmaking creates a creepy atmosphere from the opening shot, as Glass layers in red-hued flashbacks to a violent past that's about to be unearthed by present-day grisliness. And other scenes are infused with a playfully fantastical sensibility. All of this is shot through with gallows humour and an almost Coen-esque sense of how random fate can be. There's also a powerful sense that Lou needs to get out of this place, for a list of reasons that grows as the script reveals more secrets.

Stewart dives into the role with her full physicality and still manages to convey a remarkably engaging offhanded attitude. And there's edgy chemistry in her scenes with the charismatic O'Brian. Meanwhile, Lou's intense family relationships hint at a difficult past that's never outlined specifically, but this infuses meaning into Stewart's scenes with the superbly shifty Harris and the unrecognisable Malone as her sister. Meanwhile, Franco goes into full slimeball mode, and Baryshnikov brings unnerving fragility to Lou's hapless friend Daisy.

Glass creates an engulfing sense of atmosphere, pulling us into the grim darkness of this story. It's unnerving and often difficult to watch these events unfold, as they create nasty ripples of revenge that certainly won't end well. Some of the mayhem in the final act feels a bit overwrought and repetitive, but the underlying emotion is never far away, gripping us to the story and characters in unexpected ways.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 21.Mar.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall