Love Lies Bleeding – movie review

If you think Thelma & Louise and step it up several notches, you may get to Love Lies Bleeding. This is a seriously wild and dangerous ride.

It’s 1989 and Lou (Kristen Stewart) is a surly gym manager in New Mexico who’s trying to quit smoking. Into her facility walks bi body builder Jackie (Katy O’Brian), who turns Lou’s head. An incident outside the gym precipitates the start of a relationship between the pair. It turns out that Jackie has her sights set on a body building competition in Las Vegas. Already naturally muscled up from working out, Lou introduces Jackie to anabolic steroids.

Jackie has landed a job as a waitress at a bar attached to a rifle range operated by shady character Lou Snr. (Ed Harris). But unknown to her, Lou Snr. is Lou’s estranged father. Lou also hasn’t seen her mother in 12 years. But there is a great deal more to this story, as Lou is protective of young mum Beth, who has a turbulent home life with her husband JJ (Dave Franco). An episode between JJ and Beth precipitates a catastrophic chain of events.

Co-written with Weronika Tofilska by British director Rose Glass (Saint Maud), Love Lies Bleeding crosses genres. It’s a gritty but steamy revenge-thriller, with love at its core. The screenplay is compelling and its execution solid – except for the second-last scene, where a fantasy element in the mind’s eye of the filmmakers got the better of them. I loved the fact that I had no idea where and when the next twist would come.

As she has a positive habit of doing, Kristen Stewart throws herself headlong in the lead role. She has never minded the heavy lifting and so it is here. Lou has lived a lot in her 30 odd years and has had it far from easy. She is trying desperately to free herself from her past and yet inevitably it catches up with her. As for Jackie, she gets in way over her head and then finds herself manipulated.  In an impressive showing, Katy O’Brian shows she can kick some serious butt and yet express vulnerability. At first blush, Ed Harris is barely recognisable as a man who uses violence as a badge of honour, while Dave Franco plays the two-faced JJ with ease.

Cinematographer Ben Fordesman captures the seedy nature of the setting, which is aided by the soundscape from Clint Mansell.

Crime and passion fit hand in glove in Love Lies Bleeding, a film that got me excited.

Alex First

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