‘Love Lies Bleeding’ movie review: Kristen Stewart shines in Rose Glass’ sophomore sapphic nightmare

Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart star in a vivid scene from ‘Love Lies Bleeding’
| Photo Credit: Anna Kooris

In the sweltering heat of a secluded New Mexico town during the 1980s, Love Lies Bleeding presents the tangled lives of Lou (Kristen Stewart), a gym manager, and Jackie (Katy O’Brian), an up-and-coming bodybuilder with her eyes on a championship in Las Vegas. Their journey slides into a harrowing narrative of uncensored intimacy, obsession, and a quest for redemption.

Rose Glass, who directs this sophomore venture and wrote the script with Weronika Tofilska, creates a vividly queer and unabashed deep-dive into passion and adrenaline. Honoring film noir masterpieces, the story resists simple labels as it ecstatically vaults across cinematic genres. Glass expertly immerses audiences into the same type of intimate small-town setting reminiscent of her debut Saint Maud, laden with dormant aggression and salivating for the unfolding story.

Love Lies Bleeding (English)

Director: Rose Glass

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco, and Ed Harris.

Runtime: 104 minutes

Storyline: Reclusive gym manager Lou is smitten with Jackie, a determined bodybuilder chasing her ambitions in Las Vegas.

Stewart’s performance as Lou is nothing short of captivating. The repressed gym owner with a tumultuous past is given life through Stewart’s nuanced acting; her layered portrayal solidifies her as a powerhouse talent across different film genres.

Sharing the screen, O’Brian’s portrayal of Jackie is equally compelling, reflecting a similar intensity. O’Brian deftly communicates the emotional complexity of the relationship, while also conveying the alarming dedication to a bodybuilder’s extreme regimen.

Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in a powerful moment from ‘Love Lies Bleeding’
| Photo Credit:
Anna Kooris

Ben Fordesman achieves a masterful visual narrative with intense close-ups that focus on glistening muscles and effortlessly dance with shadow and light in true Rose Glass fashion. Mark Towns’ editing brings a palpable energy to the more gruesome scenes, while Clint Mansell’s haunting score weaves in an otherworldly atmosphere, elevating the narrative to an engrossing sensory journey.

Savvy viewers of Glass’s filmography will immediately recognize the intentional similarities between her films’ central themes. Here, Glass explores the thin line between agony and ecstasy, building upon it until it consumes the characters. As Jackie becomes entrapped in the obsessive mantra of “no pain, no gain”, it devolves into a grim reflection of her spiraling downfall.

The film boldly celebrates its queerness, unabashedly referencing iconic moments and themes from queer cultural history. Through Stewart’s expressive performance and raw sex scenes underscored by music from LGBTQ icons of the ’80s, the film delivers an unabridged message of queer empowerment and defiance.

The narrative reaches a powerful crescendo with a gripping final act that sends its lead characters into a fierce, defiant conclusion. Under the umbrella of A24, Rose Glass lures viewers with a tale that might seem like a romantic thriller at first glance but resounds loudly with her signature blend of body horror. Love Lies Bleeding underscores Glass’s reputation as a skillful purveyor of modern horror.

Love Lies Bleeding is currently available for viewing in theatres.

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