‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is a Blood-Pumping Thrill

“Love Lies Bleeding,” the sapphic thriller effort by Rose Glass, is without a dull moment.

“Love Lies Bleeding” is a sapphic thriller pumped with adrenaline.

Written and directed by Rose Glass, “Love Lies Bleeding” follows a blossoming romance wilted away by obsession and violence.

Set in the ‘80s New Mexican countryside, the film follows a withdrawn gym manager named Lou falling for Jackie, an adventurous bodybuilder. The duo’s spontaneous romance leads to careless violence — drawing the ire of Lou’s gunrunning father.

Lou and Jackie’s relationship manifests passionately. Lou enlivens her dismal lifestyle while Jackie gains a bedrock to her nomadic living. Once Jackie moves in with Lou, and the unabashed love story turns into a graphic revenge narrative.

Their love spirals when doping habits manifest brash decisions and violent consequences. When a steroid-induced rage leads to murder, the pair is placed in the crosshairs of a gunrunning gang led by Lou’s dad. 

Kristen Stewart’s Lou rehabilitates from a former adrenaline addiction. With a kingpin father, her past is painted in mystery and disdain. Stewart (“Spencer,” “Twilight”) as the reserved custodian struggles to stay sober from violence while still craving excitement.

Jackie, played by Katy O’Brian, is a fighter unable to combat addiction. A hitchhiking bodybuilder desperate to be the best, Jackie is overcome by ambition — fueled further by drug abuse. O’Brian (“The Mandalorian,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”) shines with both confidence and uncertainty when her dependencies help her succeed in bodybuilding but push her further from reality.

Driving the film’s crime spree is Ed Harris as Lou’s father. Harris (“Westworld,” “The Truman Show”) gives the cruel patriarch an even slimier, hostile presence. Willing to pin his daughter against her lover, Lou Sr. craves submission and control at all costs.

“Love Lies Bleeding” embraces themes of fixation from all angles. Chasing the highs of romance, self-fulfillment and a relentless pursuit of happiness rest at the film’s core. Glass (“Saint Maud,” “Room 55”) meets these themes with stylistically-refined camerawork for the unnerving topics.

With close-ups, montages and transitions, every frame is given vivid depth. Intimate scenes and workouts contain the same air of scandal. Rustic outfits and vintage cars aid the film with a retro aesthetic to contrast its Western setting. The film is an amalgamation of bruised characters and scarred belongings.

Inventive use of color and lighting mirror the character’s thoughts and warping mental states. The film dips its toes into psychological horror at multiple intervals, with haunting dream sequences bringing life to inner emotions.

These nightmarish scenes are handled with artistry and are deftly saved for the film’s final moments. Despite being a grounded thriller, the finale is too surreal for its own good. Nevertheless, Glass’s visual ambition can’t be faulted and the dreamy ending inspires humor and hope for the two leads.

Where “Love Lies Bleeding” excels is within its thrilling story. Glass pens a gripping roller coaster of ups and downs lacking a single dull moment. The violence on display is gut-wrenching, consistently unexpected and downright enthralling.

Lou’s malicious father acts as both a thematic and narrative linchpin. His lust for power mirrors the leads’ thirst for self-fulfillment taken to its extreme.

“Love Lies Bleeding” couples shocking displays of violence with a realistic romance full of passion. The film masterfully balances an authentic relationship with absorbing direction and gratifying bloodshed. 

It’s sleek, sadistic and, above all, seductive.

“Love Lies Bleeding” is in theaters now.

Featured image courtesy of A24

Brendan Parr

Brendan Parr