Love Lies Bleeding Dir: Rose Glass (Film Review)

Rose Glass’s audacious sophomore feature, Love Lies Bleeding, is a frenzied love story with shocking twists.

Starring: Kirsten Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Jena Malone, Ed Harris

We meet gym manager Lou (Kirsten Stewart), with her hand down a clogged toilet. She’s a recluse, ogling the buff woman who pump iron in her small New Mexico town. Bodybuilder wannabe Jackie (Katy O’Brian) is passing through town on her way to Las Vegas. Their meet-cute is a Sapphic take on the rom-com cliché. Lou closes the gym and kicks out the muscleheads, attempting to flirt with Jackie. The pair’s lust for each other is instant.

Like director Rose Glass‘s direction, full of pulpy exoticism, Lou and Jackie’s love is furious. Lou tries to protect her sister Beth (Jena Malone) from the savage and abusive JJ (Dave Franco). JJ works at a shooting range for Lou’s estranged patriarch, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris). He has an unsavoury background and a dreadful haircut. Jackie scores a job at the range, the front for a criminal enterprise. She strolls through town and throws Lou’s world off-balance, leading to a frenzied act of face-smashing gore. This moment, a violent outburst of roid rage, morphs the film from an unconventional love story into the unexpected—a cosmic and darkly hilarious neo-noir. Love Lies Bleeding is genre-bending. The film also flirts with Cronenbergian body horror.

Glass’s vision for Love Lies Bleeding is uncompromising and awe-inspiring. The film’s final act is daring but almost too silly. Glass’s previous feature, Saint Maud, is sharper in how it slips in and out of reality. Loves Lives Bleeding, with each surreal swing, gets even more disjointed. Revel in its provocations that are often bewildering. You’ll love the film if you don’t think too hard about the point.

Critics, myself included, are sometimes at odds with films that aren’t rich with subtext. I’m not saying that Loves Lies Bleeding doesn’t play with interesting metaphors; rather, the film is at its best when it’s trying to be experienced and not understood.

Glass’s storytelling becomes sloppy and contrived the longer the film goes on. A cursory character, Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), pops in and out of the film with eye-rolling tedium. She exists to tie up plot threads and to annoy Lou. Moreover, hinted-at character motivations are left undeveloped, so it’s up to the unhinged and unpredictable moments to do the heavy lifting.

The film nearly goes off the rails with these moments. Glass references cult classic and box-office bomb Showgirls as a reference point. Thankfully, her aesthetic sensibility in Love Lies Bleeding is juiced up to the gills. Glass’s vision of neon-tinted flashbacks, popping veins, and violence is startling.

Love Lies Bleeding won’t be for everyone, but stick with it. A genre-bending lesbian bodybuilder thriller is a rare treat.

Thomas Giblin

Love Lies Bleeding opens in cinemas tomorrow (April 4). Click here for tickets and showtimes