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"A lurid, original and engaging love story": Love Lies Bleeding

Rose Glass' kinetic thriller swaps the gothic Scarborough of her debut with sun-drenched 80s America, with excellent performances from Kristen Stewart and Katie O’Brian.

Loveliesbleeding

Love Lies Bleeding is British director Rose Glass' latest release following her 2020 feature debut, the Scarborough-set religious psychological horror Saint Maud. This follow-up feature shows that Glass is a director who possesses versatility in her storytelling as she substitutes the slow-burn gothic tone of her first film for a kinetic thriller set in 1980s sun and neon-drenched America.

The film focuses on Lou (Kristen Stewart), a gym manager who quickly falls for female bodybuilder Jackie (Katie O’Brian), who happens to work at a gun range run by Lou’s crimelord father (an unsettlingly reserved Ed Harris). When Lou’s sister is hospitalised by her scumbag husband (Dave Franco), events take a violent turn which disrupt the lives of everyone involved. Stewart gives an excellent performance as the edgy and neurotic Lou, outshined only by a star-making turn by The Mandalorian’s O’Brian.

As the film opens with a gym toilet clogged with vomit, it's clear there is a focus on the body and what we do to it in pursuit of what we want, whether that's our own or someone else’s. Junk food like pancakes and milkshakes have never looked more unappealing on screen while Jackie's increased reliance of steroids sends her on a downward spiral. Whether it's nicotine-stained teeth or a bloody corpse, Love Lies Bleeding is unafraid of showing the physical repercussions of people’s actions.

This focus lines up perfectly with the film’s subversion of masculine staples, as the women take things into their own hands while the men hide behind weapons or resort to domestic abuse in an attempt to feel strength. Many shots of bulging muscles feel plucked out of a Schwarzenegger blockbuster, but they place O’Brian’s Jackie as the symbol of power.

Love Lies Bleeding sometimes struggles to live up to its high ambition, moving as it does between romance, revenge thriller, neo-noir and body horror at a breakneck pace, including a head-scratching tip into surrealism in the final few minutes. But despite this tonal whiplash, it's a lurid, original and engaging love story which solidifies Glass as one of the UK’s most exciting and versatile new filmmakers.

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