LOVES LIES BLEEDING
YEAR: 2023 / COUNTRY: UNITED STATES & UNITED KINGGOM / LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / RUN TIME: 104 MIN
Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Ed Harris. Dave Franco, Jena Malone
Director(s): Rose Glass
Following her critically acclaimed first feature Saint Maud, Rose Glass makes her Sundance Film Festival debut with a bombastic, larger-than-life sophomore effort. An off-the-wall, rambunctious lesbian love story crashes into a family drama of the darkest ilk in this muscular thriller. As a small-town gym and a ravine just outside city limits become the playground for all flavors of mischief and mayhem, a heightened Americana sensibility and Glass’ deliciously distinctive, bold style create a world that is at once familiar and entirely fresh. Helmed by Sundance regular Kristen Stewart (Speak, Adventureland, Certain Women) and Katy O’Brian, Love Lies Bleeding is somehow as sweetly romantic about loyalty as it is doggedly hedonistic. With a vaulting imagination and its roots in deeply human places, this film packs a gut punch unlike any other.
Written By Darren Zakus
Rating: 4 out of 5
Love Lies Bleeding is a great second directorial effort from Rose Glass who delivers a thrilling revenge crime drama with horror inklings of her first film that is raised to the next level thanks to its outstanding cast.
Writer and director Rose Glass shocked audiences with her feature film debut Saint Maud back in 2020. To say that Saint Maud is one of the most unsettling horror films of the decade is an understatement, as its ending is still burned into my retinas. Reteaming with A24 for her second film, Glass shifts away from the horror genre and sets her focus on the crime drama genre, mixing in body building, lesbian lovers, greed, revenge and the fading of the American Dream to create an electrifying thrill ride. What ensues is a gripping, bloody, at times larger than life, entertaining experience that features not only Glass’ shocking yet aesthetically rich storytelling, but a strong ensemble cast led by the excellent pairing of Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian.
There is a familiarity with crime and revenge driven stories that allows the audience to know what plot beats to expect over the film. And while Love Lies Bleeding does have those familiar plot beats, it’s the way that they are told and the characters that we meet in this story that truly allows the film to stand out. Glass and her co-writer Weronika Tofilska have crafted a dark, shocking and sexy thriller that packs in as much as it can to its one hundred and three minute runtime to ensure that ensures that not only is the story full developed and thrilling from start to finish, but that the audience is taken on one wild and unforgettable ride. At the heart of the film is a great romance between Stewart and O’Brian’s Lou and Jackie, fully blossoming on screen which is the focus of the film’s first act as you are bonded to the characters with a bodybuilding twist. Things spiral out of control with Lou’s family, made up of some truly unsavory characters with her criminal kingpin father and abusive brother-in-law. From there, ego and desire fuel the mayhem that unfolds on screen, building to a dark and grim conclusion that follows suit of Glass’s first film. But what surprises most about the film’s screenplay is how funny it is, encompassing some truly twisted yet laugh out loud moments that balance out the dark story to create an overall enthralling story from start to finish.
If you’ve seen Saint Maud, you know that Glass has no hesitation showing disturbing images in her films, and that continues in Love Lies Bleeding. The film features some gory and truly gnarly moments of violence that not only well suits the gritty crime revenge thriller story being told, but will probably make audiences’ jaws hit the floor. With excellent makeup design and prosthetic work to bring to life this violence, it instantly reminds you that Glass is in the director’s chair for this film. The cinematography is striking, especially the moments using red lighting against a black backdrop to visualize the characters’ internal fears and thoughts for the audience, creating an artistic stunning experience that A24 films are largely known for. The ending features some moments of fantastical magical realism in which Glass hopes to amplify the feelings of Lou and Jackie, that despite visually nailing the sequence, it feels slightly out of place and momentarily distracts from the heart pounding, gritty and grounded thriller that has unfolded up to that point.
While the story and excellent visuals of the Love Lies Bleeding pull you into the experience, it is the truly outstanding cast that makes the film a must watch. Stewart gives yet another outstanding performance as Lou, capturing the hardened young woman who has left her father’s criminal empire behind. There is a tenacity that Stewart brings to the role that allows Lou to be relatable as she finds herself in over her head in her father’s dangerous web, that combined with her brooding personality and a soft spoken kindness, makes for another impressive performance for Stewart to add to her resume. O’Brian stuns with a strong performance as Jackie, a young woman searching for fame and the American Dream, capturing the darkness within her character as she will go to any lengths to achieve her dream. As a pairing, Stewart and O’Brian are excellent with an undeniable romantic connection and electrifying chemistry that carries the film from start to finish. Ed Harris is chilling as Lou’s father Lou Sr., bringing his signature wickedness to the film as he eats up every second of screen time he gets. Jena Malone is tremendous as Lou’s sister Beth, instantly capturing Beth’s eccentric and loving personality even if she has a smaller role in the film than I would have liked given her character’s importance to the story, while Dave Franco plays against his usual role as Beth’s abusive husband JJ to great effect. And even though she has a minor role as Daisy, Anna Baryshnikov is unforgettable with one of the wackiest performances and most unforgettable supporting characters of the year so far.
Cinephiles are in for a twisted treat this March when the latest A24 film hits theatres. Not only does it have a truly fantastic cast, but Rose Glass’ second feature film is a gripping and tense thriller that revels in its own darkness to deliver an enthralling ride throughout. With the stellar performances of Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian and an undeniable scene stealing turn from Ed Harris, Love Lies Bleeding is not only wildly entertaining as it combines a gritty revenge based thriller with delicious dark comedy moments, but it's a terrific second feature film from Rose Glass that is every genre fan’s dream come true.