Love Lies Bleeding (dir. Rose Glass) 

By: Adam Freed

The pursuit of original filmmaking voices can at times seem an arduous journey.  One need look no further in this quest than Love Lies Bleeding writer and director Rose Glass, a courageous bolt of British lightning who with her latest film serves notice with muscular menace that hers is a name that will not be ignored.  Armed with an arsenal of on-screen talent and a script that unfolds at breakneck pace, Glass’ sophomore film is one to behold.  Sagely set in a small dusty New Mexico town, this late eighties period film feels both of its time and of another world.  Lou, played by a gripping Kristen Stewart, is a local gym employee who is equal parts underemployed and underwhelmed by her romantic prospects, until she becomes instantly smitten by Jackie, a female bodybuilder with grand aspirations and little direction.  What unfolds is a bruised knuckle and broken heart thrill ride.   

Few film debuts have proven as impactful or convincing as that of Katy O’Brien, who as Jackie, demonstrates an angular and inviting range that balances playful attraction with physical dominance.  Jackie’s fuzzy backstory only alludes to her need to develop the statuesque physique through which she might protect herself from the unknown wounds of her previous life.  Stewart and O’Brien share a palpable chemistry that allows for the boundary pushing sexuality of their romance to exist in reality.  Adding layers to the tightly woven plot is the introduction of Lou’s father, Lou Sr., who acts as a local gun runner, businessman and merchant of menace.  Played with a maniacal sense of evil by Ed Harris, every clearly defined character choice works to perfection, and Harris certainly isn’t aiming for subtlety.  Dripping with intrigue are the unspoken lengths to which Harris’ sinewy and sinister character will go in order to preserve the morally bankrupt empire that serves as his financial bedrock.

Love Lies Bleeding is as its title suggests, a delivery device through which Rose Glass unleashes her gritty brand of stylized violence and wraps it in a sensual and believable love story of two heartworn wanderers destined for collision.  Lifted from all directions by a perfectly cast collection of talent, A24 Studios will be proud to add Glass’ work to their pantheon of recent success.  Love Lies Bleeding is rich in style and substance yet maintains the ability to subsist on a modest budget.  Those in search of early spring escapism need to venture into the dangerous deserts of New Mexico, and bask in the delightfully unnerving Love Lies Bleeding.

Target Score 8/10:  Be warned, do not underestimate breakthrough filmmaker Rose Glass.  Emboldened by the weight of A24’s recent run of success, Love Lies Bleeding cuts a violent and muscular path in pursuit of a sensually romantic thrillride.