Love Lies Bleeding

Director: Rose Glass
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco
Distributor: VVS Films
Runtime: 104 mins. Reviewed in Mar 2024
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Moderate violence and coarse language

Gym manager Lou falls for Jackie, a bodybuilder who is passing through town en route to a competition in Las Vegas.

In fact, numerous hateful characters also lie bleeding. Critic Sandra Hall suggested this film was Thelma and Louise on steroids. And that’s not just imagery. There is an amount of actual steroid taking is depicted. The film opens at a gym managed by Lou (Stewart, with her Twilight days long past). She’s tough and no nonsense. We meet her cleaning a toilet, being stalked by a fellow worker, but taken aback when she sees Jackie (O’Brien, martial arts instructor and actress) come in to work out.

The love of the title is the relationship between Lou and Jackie. It is often intense, but immediately complicated. Lou is alienated from her gangster father, an eerie and wrinkled Ed Harris, devoted to her sister Beth (Malone) who is married to an extremely smug and dislikeable JJ (Franco). JJ is two-timing his wife, including with Jackie, and is violent towards Beth, hospitalising her. Lou is angry but Jackie is even angrier with the result that JJ, his face brutally disfigured, lies bleeding.

And, so, this film becomes something of a gritty thriller, especially with the women deciding to get rid of the body in a vast pit, and hoping to implicate Lou’s father.

Jackie hopes to enter a body building competition in Las Vegas and, which brings complications and tensions to her relationship with Lou. Jackie hitchhikes there and enters the event, only to fail, experiencing a repulsive hallucination which is dramatised for the benefit of the audience, humiliated.

One response to Love Lies Bleeding is to see it as a film noir, better, a neo-noir. A brief definition of film noir states a style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. Black-and-white style was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, especially in Hollywood. While this film is in colour, it is often in very dark colour, widescreen but the directors instantly using close-ups, especially faces, the screen sometimes turning red, which means director Glass (the horror film, St Maud) creates a menacing atmosphere.

Some audiences in the past found film noir too grim. And, despite the colour here, many audiences will find the narrative, the characters, the steroid atmosphere and the brutal interactions, too grim.

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