15 June 2024
LOVE LIES BLEEDING opening Glasgow Film Festival 28th February 2024 UK Premiere

Film Review – Love Lies Bleeding (2024)


Her debut, the disturbing Saint Maud (2019), labelled her a disrupter for the way it up-turned horror, but her long-awaited sophomore takes director Rose Glass in a different direction. In Love Lies Bleeding, she takes another genre but, instead of giving it a radical makeover, draws on carefully chosen influences to produce a riveting romantic thriller. She’s a directorial force of nature.

Swopping shabby Scarborough for sleazy, sweaty smallville in the western desert, she gives us a love story between two women: lonely, desperate Lou (Kirsten Stewart) who spends her days doing every job going in the local gym, including cleaning blocked toilets, and the muscular Jackie (Katy O’Brian) with her dreams of fame and fortune in the bodybuilding world. But Lou’s troublesome family soon intrude on their passionate relationship: sister Beth (Jena Malone) is horribly beaten by her husband JJ (Dave Franco) so, with Jackie’s “help”, Lou decides to put an end to his abuse. Except that her estranged father, criminal kingpin Lou Snr (Ed Harris), decides to get involved.

You just know that this proverbial simple plan is destined to go wrong and what follows is bloody, ultra-violent and full of details – sometimes one too many – that leave nothing to the imagination. Yet those excesses never get in the way of a fever dream narrative, one that blurs reality and fantasy in a similar way to Saint Maud and which always impacts on the characters. Noir is the genre of choice this time – the deadly secrets, the dark characters – and there’s more than a passing nod to the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. Remember the body that wouldn’t lie down? Add to that the physicality and glistening skin that go with the stuffy gym and Jackie’s exertions in pursuit of her bodybuilding dream, and you have the classic recipe: blood, bodybuilding, tears and sweat.

As the story spirals, the tension ramps up at a rate of knots. It’s never going to end well, but the question is how. A solitary weak link comes in the shape of the pitiful Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), Lou’s unrequited lover who is little more than a device to put the Feds on Lou Snr’s tail. But, aside from that, the rest of the characters, Jackie and Lou in particular, are allowed to breathe, develop and put all their frailties on show. Stewart and O’Brian are a superb pairing, physically strikingly different but surprisingly similar as individuals. It almost goes without saying that Ed Harris is as ice cold as they come as the villain-in-chief.

Love Lies Bleeding is brutal, pulpy and intensely erotic, going to extremes that almost take it into totally wild territory. But it’s never out of control because Glass has a deceptively firm hand on the steering wheel and a strong sense of direction. It’s breathless stuff.


In UK cinemas from 3 May / Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov / Dir: Rose  Glass / Lionsgate / 15

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