top of page
  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Love Lies Bleeding ****

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Jena Malone, Dave Franco

Director: Rose Glass

Country: USA

UK Distributor: A24


Rose Glass exploded into cinema a few years ago with her compelling religious horror, Saint Maud, which was positively laden with lesbian undertones. Now, Glass has embraced Queer Cinema fully as she transitions to Hollywood for her new thriller with an all-star cast, Love Lies Bleeding.

It’s 1989 and Lou (Stewart – Twilight, Spencer) is a gym manager who falls wildly in love with bodybuilder Jackie (O’Brian). The latter is passing through Lou’s small town en route to a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. The day before they meet, Jackie had sex with JJ (Franco – Bad Neighbours, 21 Jump Street) who offered her a job, but she soon discovers that this is Lou’s brother-in-law and that she is now working for her new girlfriend’s father (Harris – Apollo 13, The Truman Show), a dangerous arms dealer. But as JJ continues to beat his wife (Malone – The Hunger Games, The Neon Demon), Jackie and Lou cannot stop themselves from getting involved in the criminality of this volatile family.

A glorious 80s pastiche, this is neon-drenched and synth-laden ascribing to Drive or Stranger Things’ devotion to the era. With big hair, lycra and steroids aplenty, this is a gleefully period piece that’s as slick and gleaming as a Knight Rider wet-dream. The cinematography is luscious, sizzling with summer heat and lacquered with a high-contrast palette.

Stewart is playing Stewart as usual, with her dead-pan eyes and blank monotone, although that definitely does work here. Its distinguished supporting cast make for suitably flawed characters, but the film’s real star is Katy O’Brian in a compelling break-out performance. Strong, driven but ultimately broken, this is a gift of a part delivered by a capable rising star. Female bodybuilding is something rarely seen on-screen, so this star-making turn from O’Brian has found in her a bristling potency burning with muscular intensity. And it’s all skilfully captured by Glass.

As it descends into a full crime thriller, there are some artistic touches from the director, with a sprinkling of magic realism used with debatable success. It’s pacey, violent  and strays into the kind of dark territory that you’d expect from the Saint Maud director. But it’s also painfully sexy, gleefully revelling the in the physical prowess of its star and sexualising her feminine musculature. For a film so thick with toxic masculinity, this film does a remarkable job at refusing to equate physical strength with manhood. This is all about strength, but deeply flawed strength, where vanity is the Achilles heel. Adrenaline-filled and breathlessly stylish, this is a very strong period flick that feels like a twenty-first century Bound.


UK Release: Out now in cinemas, released by A24


bottom of page