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Love Lies Bleeding

Updated: 3 days ago

Rose Glass's second film is a straightforward, satisfying thriller

When films try to embody a period of the past, there are usually visual, musical, or political references that are made to constantly remind viewers. Embodying 1980s America has become almost a cliché in its use of music, fashion, and pop-culture references, but their overutilization makes these projects feel less set in the period than nostalgic for it. To be more direct, simply surrounding characters with hints of pop-culture and fashion, yet not commenting on it is the effective design that Love Lies Bleeding (2024) employs.

Love Lies Bleeding is a thriller following hitchhiker body-builder Jackie (Katy O’Brien), who on her way to a competition, falls in love with gym employee Lou (Kristen Stewart), and unwittingly becomes involved in the complicated dynamics of the small town, with Lou’s criminal father (Ed Harris), the abusive relationship between Lou’s sister (Jena Malone) and her husband (Dave Franco), and some poking FBI agents (Orion Carrington, Matthew Blood-Smyth).

Love Lies Bleeding is the sophomore directorial effort of Rose Glass, who previously impressed audiences with her religious horror film Saint Maud (2019). While her first film had a more subtle exploration regarding faith, the directness and throwback filmmaking style of Love Lies Bleeding shows that the crafting of a simple thriller can be just as satisfying. As with any director coming from horror, Glass is particularly adept at using sound, echoing the straining muscles and sinews as Jackie starts using steroids or the meaty and gushy sounds employed in the more violent scenes. This alongside some very impressive make-up makes Love Lies Bleeding incredibly effective at eliciting the pain and barbarity that takes place.

Glass finds an incredible balance between the winning romance at the center of her film alongside the thriller and criminal elements. This is achieved thanks to her expert and confident camera work alongside some incredibly adept performers. Framing sensual scenes and then smoothly transitioning them to cold and bloody ones is done with a seamless nature that should be studied and admired. However, the casting of the film is what enables Glass to take on more unconventional tonal shifts and choices.

O’Brien and Stewart anchor the film with a crackling chemistry that sells the attraction their two characters have from their first glance. Stewart, one of the most underappreciated performers of her generation, gives another impressive performance showcasing her strengths and mannerisms as well as the complex depth of her character’s trauma. Stewart is perhaps not as admired due to her ability to make her acting seem effortless, yet comparing her performances in her body of work, one realizes how truly varied and ranged the American is. O’Brien, given a much juicier role than the convoluted blockbusters she had been showing up in with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) and The Mandalorian (2019-), is impressive not just due to her commitment to sculpting her own physique for the bodybuilding role, but also selling the emotional rollercoaster that her character undergoes as she sinks into Lou’s underworld. The supporting cast is rounded up with an impressive array of performers that harken back to the days of mid-budget films. Harris is particularly delicious with a quiet menace and a repulsive hairdo, selling the darkness and quirky charm of his villain.

In the end, Love Lies Bleeding is a stylistically satisfying thriller, with an effective romance anchoring the narrative. Glass doesn’t overcomplicating her film with any commentary, letting the character journey unfold instead. In the best sense, Love Lies Bleeding proves to be not just a film set in the 1980s, but an escaped relic of its era.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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