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Love Lies Bleeding by Rose Glass review

Love Lies Bleeding Rose Glass

Love Lies Bleeding is Rose Glass’ sophomore feature, following Saint Maud (2019), which garnered positive reviews in some quarters. The new film is set in the late eighties. Lou (Kristen Stewart) is the manager of a gym somewhere in New Mexico. One night, bodybuilder Jackie (Katy O Brian) passes through her town, and the two fall in love. There are several threats to their relationship, external ones like resentment from the town inhabitants, and internal ones as well since Jackie turns out to be a loose cannon. Jackie’s father, Lou Sr (Ed Harris), is an arms dealer and leads a crime syndicate. The opening shot descends from the stars, ending up at the gym filled with sweaty bodies.

I wonder if those changes have left a scar on you

Lou’s sister Beth (Jena Malone) is married to JJ (Dave Franco), who not only sports the most awful mullet imaginable but is seriously abusive, and Beth ends up in the hospital. The physicality between Lou and Jackie is not limited to bedroom activities but extends to an unhealthy dose of injecting steroids, as well. Ever so often, it feels like the film itself is injected with substances that prevent an organic experience. Rose Glass has taken the route that far too many successful debutants have taken: to make a film for A24. She said in interviews that she didn’t know the area where the film is set and that the film was supposed to be set in Scotland.

All the burning hoops of fire that you and I pass through

Not surprisingly, Love Lies Bleeding is filled with twists and turns, and the ample violence on display (and it’s really on display) feels natural in this kind of film. However, there are numerous stylistic antics, which might be expected in an A24 film but still remain annoying. The film has received lots of plaudits from critics, but once you dive into those reviews, you find several reservations, not least regarding the third act. The faux-surrealism, far too often associated with the company’s films, makes me more afraid than Beau. Just like Saint Maud, the film is lensed by Ben Fordesman. One could point to clever solutions here and there, but they never gel into a coherent style.

Love Lies Bleeding
Katy O´Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding.

While if the wind of change comes down your way, girl
You’ll make it back somehow

There is a more general issue today, which pertains to how young directors are overhyped by critics eager to find the next big star in the cinematic sky. Too many directors are hailed as great artists before they are even competent craftsmen. Glass is only one of numerous cases. Prano Bailey-Bond and her first feature, Censor, is another prime example, as is The Lost Daughter. The films of Ari Aster might be the most glaringly evident illustration of this situation. It’s often a festival phenomenon, and Sundance might be the biggest culprit when it comes to this. It’s not that the films are necessarily bad, but rather “terrifically competent”, to quote Stanley in Josephine Decker’s Shirley.

Love Lies Bleeding in my hands

I found watching Love Lies Bleeding a tremendous challenge, mostly on my patience. There are a few strong ideas here, but they are lost in the jumbled mess that this film becomes the longer it stumbles forward like a scorned woman on a steroid cocktail. The ubiquitous “strong woman” trope quickly wears thin, even if it’s far from as egregious as other recent examples1She-Hulk and Amilyn Holdo come to mind. since the protagonists have to face the consequences of their actions. Occasionally, the physical and mental anguish rings true. The female leads go all in on their characters, but Ed Harris (and his extensions) might be the one who steals the show.

I am not sure where Rose Glass will go after this, but hopefully, she will continue to hone her craft rather than listen to the critics´ hyperbolic reactions. For now, I recommend Elton John’s song from the classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road instead.

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