Love Lies Bleeding Is a Blood-Soaked Romance for the Ages

Rose Glass’ Saint Maud followup revels in '80s pulp

Sometimes, a movie needs room to breathe, slow down, and take stock. Love Lies Bleeding, the second film by Rose Glass, is not one of those movies.

It’s a propulsive, energetic love story by way of 1980s tinged pulp, a wild ride that deserves to be seen on a big screen and with the biggest crowd possible. In her 2019 debut feature, Saint Maud, Glass showcased an aptitude for stories about obsession and magical realism. In Love Lies Bleeding, she cements her voice and gift for capturing these themes in the loudest way possible.

The script – credited to Glass and Weronika Tofilska – centers around Lou (Kristen Stewart), a manager at a gym in the desert. Lou leads a solitary life, flitting between cleaning up messes at the gym and returning to her apartment and cat. She politely declines the affections of Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), a regular who can’t take a hint, and stays as far away as possible from her menacing arms-dealing dad (Harris). It’s a simple, lonely life that cracks open when body builder Jackie (Katy O'Brian) comes into town. Lou and Jackie’s romance comes on fast and intense. Soon enough it will get bloody, too.

Love Lies Bleeding wouldn’t work without the incredible performances at the heart of the story. Stewart and O'Brian smolder together as two people who can’t help but be drawn into each other’s orbit, no matter the consequences. Their chemistry is powerful enough to carry the film along its wild, twisty path. The rest of the cast is equally compelling and fun. Harris, for instance, oozes menace and sleaze from every gesture and action (his costuming and makeup, which includes a long mullet-like wig, doesn’t hurt either). Anchored by these outstanding performances, Love Lies Bleeding steps on the gas and rarely lets up for its entire 104 minute runtime.

Glass has a real flair for capturing the compulsive, sometimes dangerously hot intoxication of love. The way the camera lingers on Lou and Jackie makes it clear their love is inescapable; whether they’re in the throes of passion or blowing up incriminating evidence in the desert, the intimacy of a close-up is crucial to communicating their desire.

It’s a desire that has a cost, as this review has hinted at. Yet, it seems to be the point the film is trying to get across too. Jackie, hopped up on steroids, has moments throughout the film where she magically bulks up, Hulk-style, and has outbursts (both justified and fueled by terrifying hallucinations). She confesses to Lou at one point that she’s hurt people before. In a movie that’s anything but grounded, there is a soft center at the heart of this obsessive, violent love story: the search for acceptance. It’s unexpected, and some people might not read this right away, but it’s there, even amidst all the bloodshed and pulp.

The all-out Love Lies Bleeding is a love story that won’t work for everyone. However, for those who can revel in the blood-soaked, complicated, sapphic delights that make up the backbone of the film, the saga of Lou and Jackie will be one for the ages.

This film was reviewed at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

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