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‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Is One of the Greatest ‘Be Gay Do Crime’ Movies

Passion and Power Collide in ‘Love Lies Bleeding’: A Tale of Love’s Transformative Force.

Love Lies Bleeding review
A24

It’s safe to say that Rose Glass’s, Saint Maud, is one of the most impressive debut features of the last decade. Deeply disturbing, but also completely electrifying, this psychological horror film follows a woman who, running away from her past, takes on a new identity and devotes herself to Catholicism. The lead characters in the writer-director’s sophomore feature, Love Lies Bleeding, are all trying to escape their past. With one, not turning to God, but to those on the cover of fitness magazines.

Love Lies Bleeding Review

It’s the 1980s. A sign that reads, “Only losers quit,” hangs on the wall of a gym, the location that introduces us to Glass’s noir pulp fiction. The camera lingers in on muscles and sweat, and the soundtrack is simply the sounds of heavy breaths. Despite the gym’s membership being stacked with burly men, hitchhiker Jackie (Katy O’Brian delivering an impressive performance and one of the best breakout turns) packs more brawn than any of them.

A24

She’s passing through on her way to a body-building championship in Las Vegas, a dream that saw her leave behind farm and church life in Oklahoma. To make some cash, she gets a job as a waitress at a gun range that’s run by Lou Sr. (Ed Harris giving creepy horror movie villain), a criminal with many skeletons in his closet and an overall “piece of shit” according to his daughter, also named Lou (Kristen Stewart looking maybe cooler than ever with a mullet and sleeveless shirts). Estranged from her father for many years, Lou is the manager of the aforementioned gym, an often unglamorous gig with her hand deep inside a clogged toilet. She lives a pretty reclusive life, but whatever loneliness she may feel, it doesn’t stop her from avoiding the affections of Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov) and her rotting, cigarette-stained teeth. 

A24

“Having two queer actresses, who are absolutely fire together, playing these characters isn’t the only thing that’s invigorating. It’s the depiction of female desire as something animalistic. It’s hot. It’s physical.”

When Jackie starts to frequent the gym, Lou can’t keep her eyes off of her and they both quickly fall in love…but it couldn’t be further from uncomplicated. The pair both have their demons. Lou harbors a lot of anger towards a lot of things. Her father, of course, but especially her brother-in-law, J.J. (Dave Franco), who abuses her sister, Beth (Jena Malone). Jackie says she has horror stories, too, but the main flaw of the film is that we never get to know what those stories are. Regardless, she tries to mend Lou’s anger by unleashing her own. A fury builds. Jackie’s bones crack, muscles expand and veins bulge like she’s getting bigger and bigger by the second. A film of revenge and violence ensues, with dangerous consequences. 

Despite not being labeled as horror, Glass retains some of her special touch with that genre for her second film. The first few moments would have anyone questioning what kind of movie they were about to see as a low hum sinks us deep into the dark mouth of a canyon illuminated in blood red. There are frequent flashes of imagery like this, all linking to Lou’s past with her father, and it’s a very illustrative way of laying it out. There are also moments that veer into body horror as well with Jackie’s transformation. These scenes never go off the rails but are still framed in a way that can cause uneasiness.

Love Lies Bleeding review
A24

But that feeling is welcomed when you think of the significance of that transformation. Jackie’s physical changes can’t so easily be explained away by steroids when you consider how they are triggered. The first time we see the camera focus on one of her arms, seemingly growing bigger in an instant, she’s having sex with Lou for the first time. Each subsequent moment is also triggered by this romance. Much like the superhero, Hulk, her adrenaline surges in response to feelings of fear, pain, or anger, but more so Lou’s fear, pain, or anger. It’s a brilliant display of female rage, only more significant when the queer romance at its center fuels this and Jackie’s strength. 

Love Lies Bleeding feels subversive. Taking traditional male things like guns and muscle and attributing them to a female character shifts the idea of feminity. It doesn’t care about whatever the norm seems to be, even in its queer representation. Having two queer actresses, who are absolutely fire together, playing these characters isn’t the only thing that’s invigorating. It’s the depiction of female desire as something animalistic. It’s hot. It’s physical. 

Love Lies Bleeding review
A24

In one scene, the lovers kiss at a place of torment – the source of Lou’s nightmares. Love may hurt at times, but it heals them, too. This romance holds such power, and queerness here is nothing but a superpower. 

Grade: A-

Love Lies Bleeding was released theatrically in the United States by A24 on March 8, 2024, and is set for release in the United Kingdom by Lionsgate UK on May 3, 2024.



Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.

Release Date: March 15, 2024

Director: Rose Glass

Cast: Kristen Stewart , Katy O'Brian , Ed Harris

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