Love Lies Bleeding review: "Kristen Stewart is excellent in this neon-drenched primal roar of righteous rage"

Love Lies Bleeding
(Image: © A24)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Rose Glass’ sophomore effort is both neon-drenched desert noir and primal roar of righteous rage.

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Love Lies Bleeding has had its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival. Here's our review... 

British writer/director Rose Glass exploded onto the scene with 2019’s Saint Maud, an oppressive, highly impressive chamber horror about a devout young woman experiencing ecstatic visions. Now backed by A24, plus some A-list names, she’s moved country, and genre, to make a hyper-stylized bodybuilding thriller co-written with Weronika Tofilska. But here it’s steroids, rather than scripture, offering mind-altering properties.

In '80s Albuquerque, bored gym worker Lou (Kristen Stewart) falls hard for bodybuilding drifter Jackie (Katy O’Brian), who’s on her way to compete in Las Vegas. Lou’s estranged father, Lou Sr (Ed Harris), is a violent gangster who runs the local shooting range, where Jackie gets a job. Her sister, Beth (Jena Malone), is married to abusive dirtbag JJ (Dave Franco). So it’s no wonder Lou’s obsessed with Jackie’s immense physical power. But when she starts supplying her new lover with steroids, Jackie’s simmering rage threatens to engulf them all.  

If Saint Maud explored the private sanctuaries of its female characters, Love Lies Bleeding puts them in very public, very male spaces, where they find themselves under constant scrutiny and, often, in danger. 

When Jackie shrugs off the advances of another bodybuilder he punches her full-on in the face; Lou Sr fires a gun over her shoulder for wasting his time on the job; and JJ is both vindictive and pathetic – quite an achievement for the usually charming Franco. But all these bruised male egos are nothing in the face of Jackie’s physicality, the ultimate special effect.  

It's an incredibly visceral work. When the steroids hit, Glass moves in close on Jackie’s glistening skin as it creaks and clicks like something from Julia Ducournau’s Titane. The no-holds-barred sex scenes, meanwhile, are followed by acts of sudden, face-splitting violence. And when Jackie begins to disassociate, she sees nightmarish images of black-eyed demons and vomit-spattered rebirth that might have come straight from Glass’ debut.

It’s a lot for one movie, maybe too much, with the more outré moments threatening to unstitch the tapestry rather than adding to it. But the actors – particularly the two leads – are excellent; Clint Mansell’s score throbs with purpose, and Ben Fordesman’s cinematography turns the desert from paradise to hellscape on a dime. 

More fever dream than film, Love Lies Bleeding shows that Glass is the real deal. Who knows what sights she has to show us next?

Love Lies Bleeding is in US theaters on March 8 and UK cinemas on May 3. 

For more upcoming movies, check out our guide to 2024 movie release dates.

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Freelance Writer

Matt Glasby is a freelance film and TV journalist. You can find his work on Total Film - in print and online - as well as at publications like the Radio Times, Channel 4, DVD REview, Flicks, GQ, Hotdog, Little White Lies, and SFX, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film and Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England.