Euronews Culture's Film of the Week: 'Love Lies Bleeding' - Rose Glass' audacious and pulpy triumph

'Love Lies Bleeding' - Rose Glass' audacious and pulpy triumph
'Love Lies Bleeding' - Rose Glass' audacious and pulpy triumph Copyright A24
Copyright A24
By David Mouriquand
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Rose Glass signs a vibrant, pulpy triumph fuelled by two electric performances from Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian.


When stepping out of Welsh director Rose Glass’ debut feature film, 2019’s Saint Maud, I was left in a prolonged dirge that I couldn't shake off.

When the rotting fruit bowl I call a brain finally decided to resume its functions, the only think I could think to coherently gasp was: “Fuck.”

As my sweary outburst suggests, there’s something so uniquely intoxicating about discovering a new cinematic voice. But with such a layered and nerve-jangling calling card comes the risk of the dreaded sophomore slump.

Unwarranted fears, as it turns out, as Glass’ bigger, bolder follow-up only serves to confirm that she is up there with talent like Julia Ducournau (Raw, Titane), Natalie Erika James (Relic) and Prano Bailey-Bond (Censor) as some of the most distinctive and exciting cinematic voices of this still young century.

I may not have dropped an F-bomb after walking out of Love Lies Bleeding, but considering how radically different it is compared to Saint Maud, there’s already plenty to celebrate about Glass’ chameleonic trajectory.

Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding
Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies BleedingA24

Love Lies Bleeding transports you back to 1980s New Mexico. There, we meet Lou (Kristen Stewart), who works a dead-end job at a scuzzy gym and who needs something more in her life. That something comes when drifter and ambitious bodybuilder Jackie (Katy O’Brian) rocks into town and goes to pump some iron.

Their connection is immediate, and as their relationship blossoms, it soon hits a sizeable roadblock in the shape of Lou’s misogynistic and abusive brother-in-law, JJ (Dave Franco, sporting a douche mullet cut). He sends his submissive wife Beth (Jena Malone) to hospital, with injuries that outdo his previous beatings.

Seeing Lou upset by JJ’s assault, a defensive Jackie – who has recently discovered the joys of steroids – gets roid-ragey and jaw-smashy. This sets off a chain of events which will put the couple on a collision course with Lou’s estranged father, the criminal, gun-running kingpin Lou Sr. (Ed Harris).

Katy O’Brian in Love Lies Bleeding
Katy O’Brian in Love Lies BleedingA24

It’s tempting to categorise Love Lies Bleeding as a revenge odyssey with a dash of Thelma and Louise, or a queer parable flirting with body horror, or even a forward-looking yet retro-feeling noir. It’s all those things, but like Saint Maud, it thrillingly defies easy classification and is stronger for it.

Both of Glass’ films share a similar theme of devotion taken to the extreme, and how an overpowering emotion like faith or love can come to consume a person. Even harmfully warp their worldview.

The bare-bones scenario of Love Lies Bleeding doesn’t seem particularly original in that small-town-crime sort of way, but the unnervingly tactile execution is its own kind of electrifying. I won’t mince words: everything works. The dynamic visual tempo; the graphic violence; the way bodies are filmed, whether Hulked-out muscles at the gym or limbs entangled in perfectly lensed sex scenes; the dark sense of humour that permeates so much of the narrative; those immersive close-ups that ensure that when Glass blurs reality’s boundaries to suggest a folie à deux, you’re hooked...

I could go on, but this list schtick has its limits.

The director somehow manages to harness all these elements and create a cohesive vision. She’s not alone, mind you. Teaming up once more with Saint Maud cinematographer Ben Fordesman and editor Mark Towns, there’s a palpably pulpy and intoxicating atmosphere that buttresses Glass’ precise direction. Of particular note is Paul Davies’ textured sound design, which gives a queasily sensuous dimension to film - on top of what is destined to be one of 2024’s best soundtracks.

The cast are superb, and beyond Stewart and O’Brian’s electric turns are other memorable performances, especially by Ed Harris, looking like a menacing boiled testicle with wispy hair (I mean that lovingly), and Anna Baryshnikov as Daisy. The latter, complete with jaundiced dentures and a lovesick schoolgirl attitude is a real treat – one which unexpectedly gives the film a perfect shot for its ending.

Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding
Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies BleedingA24

One major talking point (which shan’t be fully spoiled here) is a rather outrageous flourish in the final act, one which was somewhat heralded by the gradual metamorphosis that Jackie experiences throughout the film.

Its gonzo nature won’t work for everyone, but by the time it comes, it’s a delirious, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman -echoing twist that buttresses two core aspects of this future midnight movie essential.

First, the toxic, all-American sense of extreme affirmation, previously seen in those all-too-earnest gyms signs (“Only losers quit”; “Pain is weakness leaving the body”). The story’s setting has a distinct Americana vibe to it, and a possible reading of Glass’ film is that in a country of such excess and American Dream-disillusionment, it shouldn’t be surprising that all-consuming emotions are fostered – if not encouraged. Often to violent extremes.

The second is more universal and significantly more uplifting – a question which resides at the core of Love Lies Bleeding: What wouldn’t you do for the person you passionately love?


For better and for worse, considering desire contorts into obsession, it reminds you that love is not only a drug. It’s the drug.

Thanks for heart-pounding hit, Rose Glass.

Love Lies Bleeding is out now in Portugal, Iceland, Spain and Netherlands, and starts its theatrical rollout in European territories throughout April and the beginning of May.

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