Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

by | Mar 16, 2024 | Movie Reviews, New In Theaters | 0 comments

Love Lies Bleeding is captivating lesbian romantic thriller that views life through the prism of bodybuilding and all the ways you fight for the one’s you love. With remarkable training montages and countless moments that make you squirm in your seat, this lesbian love story set in the late 80’s, truly caught me off guard with how well it plays with your expectations as a participant of everyday life in America. It cleverly subverts your expectations in certain settings and scenarios and quietly paves the way to being one of the year’s first truly outstanding films!

Love Lies Bleeding

Lou (Kristen Stewart) runs her father’s gym in smalltown New Mexico where her only motivation to stick around is keeping an eye on her abused sister Beth (Jena Malone). When the mysterious and muscular Jackie (Katy O’Brian) comes into town looking to prepare for a fitness showcase in Las Vegas, the two immediately spark a connection that proves to be incredibly strong, if not somewhat dangerous. As the two get Jackie into show shape with the help of questionable injections, dark parts of Lou’s past come into the light as part of Jackie’s true self is revealed as well. Before they know it, the women find themselves knee deep in a situation that will only continue to test them and showcase who they really are.

Director and co-writer Rose Glass has crafted a fascinating approach to telling this story of two women who are powerful in their own ways and how those women might come together if they allow themselves the chance. It’s clear Glass respects and admires the human body, specifically focusing on female bodybuilders and the type of responses they get in their lives from people who question their physique. While the shots certainly compliment the female body, they never come off as gratuitous and show the audience exactly how Lou sees Jackie. The dedication and mental toughness that comes along with the rigorous physical toughness is something we see Lou admire in Jackie, striking her as a different kind of woman who’s not afraid to stand up for herself. Early in the film we even see Jackie take on a musclebound meathead and take a hit like a champion, chirping that she would’ve kicked his ass if Lou hadn’t stepped in.

For years now Kristen Stewart has played exceptional roles in dozens of smaller films that continue to cement her as one of the better dramatic actors working. Here, Stewart balances an innate rage towards the brother-in-law who beats his sister, and yet she also feels a deep sense of helplessness in her life as far as being able to stop him. She feels stalled in her life and until Jackie comes into town, Lou is just another wandering soul wasting away in the desert. Lou’s attraction to Jackie is immediately evident and how she gradually lets her guard down around her is a testament to how well Stewart can sell a look and deliver a great line. It’s enjoyable to see how Stewart transforms throughout the movie and how so much of that is influenced by O’Brian’s performance.

Commanding the screen from the moment she arrives in frame is Katy O’Brian, who if you’re familiar with her work has completely transformed into an impressively hulking bodybuilder. Feeling the Rocky influence, her character Jackie trains wherever she can on her journey West and looks just as striking as she does pullups next to the highway. You can tell how much judgement Jackie feels through O’Brian’s eyes and the physicality in the performance. How Jackie views herself is even harder to watch as O’Brian more than convincingly portrays how juicing can really affect someone’s mentality. The time O’Brian shares with Stewart is always excellent, often catching the audience off-guard in moments that exhilarate and often stun!

It’s somewhat hard to talk about this film without spoiling some of the central story, however I must say that almost all of this film worked for me until the end. As is the norm with A24 films, it feels like there’s an obligation to have some really trippy genre scene that exists somewhere in the film and in a fair number of cases, that scene often ends up being a huge detractor to the rest of film around it. Fortunately for Love Lies Bleeding this scene isn’t as obscure as some of the other offenders, however I did feel like it certainly lessened the impact of the ending and really blew things out of proportion. There’s plenty of neo-noir feeling with how the violence and drugs are handled and I understood that some of it was meant to be exaggerated, it’s just the last bit that really takes you out of reality and has you questioning why they chose to do that.

Love Lies Bleeding mostly succeeds as a great romantic thriller that increasingly keeps raising the stakes and the audience’s heart rate. Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian are a tremendous pairing whose love and frustration you can really feel and whose safety you genuinely grow concerned over. Rose Glass infuses impressive styles into how she tells this story and continually keeps a pace that leaves little room for anyone to breathe before pulling out the rug from underneath us. With the odd choice for the ending aside, Love Lies Bleeding was a fantastic film that astounds on a physical level and really creates a lasting impression with how this story of love and loss are told.

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