Review | Love Lies Bleeding | 2024

As someone who was fairly mixed on Rose Glass' otherwise widely acclaimed 2019 debut feature, Saint Maud, I am now fully a Glass convert thanks to her sophomore film, Love Lies Bleeding

In fact, Love Lies Bleeding is perhaps the horniest, most aesthetically electrifying film I've seen in a multiplex in very long time. It's a sweaty, sweltering, heady mix of queer eroticism, crime thriller, magical realism, and dark comedy that feels genuinely rebellious in a way films rarely do anymore. Glass lures us in with a love story between a new-in-town gym rat named Jackie (Katy O’Brian) and a sullen gym clerk named Lou (Kristen Stewart) who spends her days cleaning toilets, vaping, and taking care of her sister (Jena Malone). When Jackie accepts a job working for Lou's sleazy dad (Ed Harris), it sets off a violent chain of events that could either tear them apart or unite them in a shared exorcism of generational trauma.

This is essentially Thelma and Louise for a new generation, dealing much more directly with themes of sexuality and gender, textualizing the queer subtext and giving us something we really haven't seen portrayed on screen before. I never thought I'd be watching two women make love after giving each other testosterone injections, but Love Lies Bleeding revels in that kind of gleeful gender-fuckery. It's also completely disinterested in playing around with queer respectability politics, allowing its characters to be messy and flawed, to make mistakes, to commit crimes, and even celebrate them for doing so. In that regard, it's kind of a fairy tale, a misty-eyed daydream of rebellious love and bloody revenge cut from the cloth of sleazy 1970s exploitation films and gay erotica. 

The film's conscience and soul might be Stewart, but O'Brien is its fiery heart, and that tension creates something strange and wholly beautiful, a fascinating exploration of love's sometimes messy contradictions as people navigate their individual dreams and family backgrounds that seem determined to keep them where they are. There's a lot to love here - from the killer soundtrack to Glass' crackling direction to Stewart's remarkable, lived-in performance, but what astonished me most is its unapologetic queerness. It wasn't that long ago that something like this would have been relegated to arthouse screens in major cities only, but to see something so provocative and so alive with queer sexual energy playing multiplexes across the country feels like a minor miracle. It feels like both a rebuke of sexless Hollywood film culture and almost radical embrace of a queer aesthetic makes for some of the most revelatory filmmaking in recent memory.

GRADE - ★★★★ (out of four)

LOVE LIES BLEEDING | Directed by Rose Glass | Stars Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone | Rated R for violence and grisly images, sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use | Now playing in theaters everywhere.


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