Directed by: Rose Glass
Written by: Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris. Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco
Released: March 14, 2024
Grade: B-

Love Lies Bleeding

Marking the sophomore feature of English director Rose Glass (Saint Maud), Love Lies Bleeding is a love story with a few other elements bolted on.  Shot in New Mexico and set in the year 1989, it’s centred on an introverted young woman, Lou (Stewart), who lives alone with her cat and who manages a rundown gymnasium.  It’s far from her dream job.  Part of her day is spent dealing with aggressive, disgruntled customers while other parts are spent with her hand down a filthy toilet trying to fix a reoccurring blockage (a scene as disturbing as any horror flick).

It’s at the gym that she befriends Jackie (O’Brian), a destitute “Oklahoma farm girl” who has ambitions to be a successful bodybuilder.  She’s putting in long hours of training in preparation for an upcoming contest in Las Vegas.  Lou has an instant romantic attraction and, as part of her foreplay, helps Jackie by offering her a place to live, and performance enhancing drugs which can improve her bodybuilding physique.  It’s not long before sparks fly, and the pair are engaged in intense sex.

The love story is the film’s strongest attribute.  33-year-old Oscar nominee Kristen Stewart (Twilight, Spencer) is a terrific actor, and she brings the right balance of passion and apprehension to her shy character.  35-year-old Katy O’Brian (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) is also solid and the two share insightful, heartfelt conversations as they open-up about their troubled pasts.  It taps into the messaging that love shapes so much of our decision making, whether it be good or bad.

The remainder of the film is questionable.  There are stories involving a crooked cop, FBI agents, an oblivious wife, and missing people.  These involve Lou’s rough-as-guts, estranged father (Harris) who operates a gun range and is involved in criminal activity.  There’s another subplot which sees Lou’s sister (Beth) hospitalised after being savagely beaten by her abusive husband (Franco).  There’s not much to any of these supporting characters and the formulaic nature of their actions (e.g. Ed Harris as the powerful gangster), limits interest levels.

The directorial style of Glass didn’t win me over either.  It’s nice to see chances being taken but the weird sound effects (muscles expanding), musical montages, and imagery didn’t blend in a way which is cool and distinctive.  There are a few worthy moments (the final scene is fun) but, for the most part, it’s bland as opposed to brave.

Fresh from its world premiere at Sundance, Love Lies Bleeding works as a romance but fails as a crime drama.