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Love Lies Bleeding

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Love Lies Bleeding
Photograph: A24

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Kristen Stewart’s neo-noir romance is a pulpy pleasure

The batshit fever dream that Kristen Stewart’s fans have been waiting for, Love Lies Bleeding also happens to be the best B-movie of the year.

Too early for such lofty claims? Consider the evidence: a single montage includes Ed Harris’s mulleted mobster petting horned beetles, bodybuilder Katy O’Brian pumping iron in Richard Simmons shorts and a tank top adorned with the words ‘Burning Love’, and Stewart’s lost moll reading a paperback called ‘Macho Sluts’. 

By now you’ll probably know whether this retro-noir fantasia is for you – and Love Lies Bleeding is definitely a matter of taste. Director Rose Glass doesn’t quite match the standards she set with her 2019 debut, the exceptional spiritual horror Saint Maud. But she once again infuses a hothouse atmosphere with wickedly unsparing insight – and just a touch more humour – to turn genre tropes inside out.

Glass and co-writer Weronika Tofilska perfectly tailor their operatically pulpy romance to Stewart’s talents. We’re introduced to her lonely Lou while she’s cleaning a clogged toilet inside the grimy gym owned by her dad, Lou Sr (Harris, terrifically sleazy). Their particular corner of 1989 New Mexico isn’t much prettier on the outside, either. But her austere existence turns Technicolor when enigmatic drifter Jackie (The Mandalorian’s O’Brian, perfectly cast) walks through the door. Jackie is training for a competition in Vegas, and when she punches a meathead who won’t stop hitting on her, Lou is instantly smitten. 

It’s the bonkers fever dream that Kristen Stewart’s fans have been waiting for

Within just a few days, Jackie moves in, Lou starts her on steroids, and someone very close to them winds up very dead. In fairness, their victim is an undeniable villain, but the presence of Lou’s vulnerable sister (Jena Malone), vicious brother-in-law (Dave Franco), and jealous ex-girlfriend (Anna Baryshnikov) quickly complicates things further. And so do the FBI agents who have just stopped into town.

As we come to realise via some increasingly surreal imagery, nicely shot by cinematographer Ben Fordesman and cleverly edited by Mark Towns, the point really isn’t the crime. Or the bleeding, Or even, despite the palpable chemistry between Stewart and O’Brian, the love. It’s the intimate, passionately intense feel of the thing: the urgent need to escape where you are, and find someplace new. Sometimes that place is a person, sometimes it’s the open road, sometimes it’s a bodybuilding contest in a casino ballroom. 

Sometimes, too, it comes from within. And as we watch Jackie transform under the influence of both Lou’s drug kit and her kindness, we have to wonder: is her emerging, progressively uncontrollable She-Hulk really the result of ’roid rage? Or could it simply be fury at the immutable shape of a woman’s fate?

In US theaters Mar 15 and UK cinemas May 3

Elizabeth Weitzman
Written by
Elizabeth Weitzman

Cast and crew

  • Director:Rose Glass
  • Screenwriter:Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska
  • Cast:
    • Kristen Stewart
    • Jena Malone
    • Ed Harris
    • Anna Baryshnikov
    • Dave Franco
    • Katy O'Brian
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