Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding
Original title:Love Lies Bleeding
Director:Rose Glass
Running time:104 minutes
Release date:08 march 2024
Lou, a lonely gym manager, falls head over heels in love with Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder. Their passionate and explosive relationship leads them into a spiral of violence.

Mulder's Review

Love Lies Bleeding, directed by Rose Glass, is a gripping neo-noir thriller that explores the complexities of love, obsession and the extremes to which people are willing to give themselves in order to achieve their desires. Set in a dusty New Mexico town in the late 1980s, the film stars Kristen Stewart as Lou, an introverted gym manager, and Katy O'Brian as Jackie, a bodybuilder who dreams of competing in Las Vegas. Director Rose Glass, known for her debut film Saint Maud, brings a similar intensity and fervor to this tale, crafting a story that deals as much with the human condition as it does with the visceral thrills of novel noir and body horror.

The film opens with Lou's mundane existence in a rural town where the night sky is filled with stars, but her life is devoid of any real excitement or passion. Lou's routine is characterized by her solitary lifestyle, the anti-smoking tape she listens to when she lights a cigarette, and her attempts to find some semblance of pleasure in her lonely apartment. Her sexual encounters are unsatisfactory, as evidenced by her ex, Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), whose eagerness is matched only by her unattractive appearance.

Lou's world is turned upside down when she meets Jackie, an impressive bodybuilder who has arrived in town on her way to a competition in Las Vegas. Jackie exudes confidence and physical prowess, her muscles rippling like ocean waves, and her presence immediately captivates Lou. The chemistry between them is electric, and Lou's desire for Jackie is palpable. Lou seduces Jackie with a needle full of steroids, and their relationship quickly moves from a lustful encounter to an intense, codependent partnership.

As their relationship deepens, Lou's life becomes increasingly complicated. Her sister Beth (Jena Malone) is in an abusive relationship with her husband JJ (Dave Franco), and their father Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), a controlling and threatening figure, dominates their lives. The world around Lou is filled with violent, vindictive men, from the thugs at the gym to her domineering father, creating a sense of desperate frustration and yearning for power.

Glass, who co-wrote the screenplay with Weronika Tofilska, masterfully blends elements of religious ecstasy with raw carnal desire, creating a narrative that explores the destructive and redemptive qualities of love. Set against the backdrop of the barren yet beautiful New Mexico desert, the film tackles themes of power, control and liberation. Jackie's physical strength and steroid use symbolize her quest for power and freedom, challenging traditional gender norms and raising questions about the true nature of liberation and control.

Rose Glass's direction is bold and relentless, gracing the film with dimly lit spaces, blood-red flashbacks and the eerie call of a seemingly bottomless canyon. The film's macabre atmosphere is underscored by a sense of desperate frustration, particularly a woman's yearning for power to level the playing field in a male-dominated world. The story is not a simple love affair, but a complex exploration of power dynamics and the limits people are willing to cross to achieve their desires.

Kristen Stewart delivers a remarkable performance as Lou, bringing depth to her character's quiet desperation and yearning for something more meaningful. Kristen Stewart's interpretation adds another layer to her already impressive repertoire of roles exploring human desire and complexity. Her performance is nuanced, capturing the internal struggles and external pressures that shape Lou's actions.

Katy O'Brian is equally convincing as Jackie, balancing her character's naiveté with fierce determination. O'Brian, known for her intriguing role as the imperial grunt in The Mandalorian, brings a touch of vulnerability to Jackie, making her character endearing despite her physical prowess. The chemistry between Stewart and O'Brian is electric, making their relationship believable and intense, driving the story forward with a palpable sense of urgency.

The supporting cast, notably Jena Malone as Lou's abused sister Beth, and Dave Franco as her abusive husband JJ, add to the film's tension and complexity. Ed Harris, as the menacing Lou Sr, is a chilling presence, contributing to the oppressive atmosphere Lou seeks to escape. Each performance is finely tuned, adding depth and dimension to the story, making the characters' struggles and desires real and immediate.

The film's cinematography, by Ben Fordesman, captures the stark beauty of the New Mexico desert, juxtaposing vast, open landscapes with claustrophobic, dimly lit interiors. The visual style reinforces the intensity of the story, creating a sense of isolation and despair that permeates the film. Fordesman's use of lighting and composition adds a layer of visual storytelling that complements the characters' emotional journeys.

Clint Mansell's eerie synth score is another striking element, perfectly complementing the film's unsettling tone. The music underscores the tension and urgency of the narrative, reinforcing the emotional impact of key scenes and the overall atmosphere of the film. The sound design, with its choking noises and the visceral cracking of bones and muscles, further immerses the audience in the gritty, physical world of the film.

Love Lies Bleeding is a bold and provocative exploration of love, power and the extremes of human desire. Rose Glass proves that she is a filmmaker unafraid to delve into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. The combination of solid performances, captivating themes and striking cinematography makes this film a must-see. It's a thrilling, unsettling adventure that leaves a lasting impression, firmly establishing Glass as a visionary director to watch.

This film doesn't limit itself to the visceral thrills of novel noir and body horror, but tackles the deeper, more complex dynamics of power and control. It raises questions about gender, power and the nature of liberation, pushing audiences to think beyond the superficial narrative. Love Lies Bleeding is a bold film that successfully blends genre elements into a compelling and thought-provoking narrative, making it one of the most intriguing films of 2024.

Love Lies Bleeding
Directed by Rose Glass
Written by Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska
Produced by Andrea Cornwell, Oliver Kassman
Starring Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco, Ed Harris
Cinematography : Ben Fordesman
Edited by Mark Towns
Music by Clint Mansell
Production companies : A24, Film4, Escape Plan, Lobo Films
Distributed by A24 (United States), Metropolitan films (France)
Release dates : January 20, 2024 (Sundance), March 8, 2024 (United States), June 12, 2024 (France)
Running time : 104 minutes

Viewed on May 30, 2024 (VOD)

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