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Love Lies Bleeding review - a pumped-up neo-noir | reviews, news & interviews

Love Lies Bleeding review - a pumped-up neo-noir

Love Lies Bleeding review - a pumped-up neo-noir

There's darkness on the edge of town in Rose Glass's sweaty, violent New Queer gem

Hot and heavy: Katy M O'Brian and Kristen Stewart in 'Love Lies Bleeding'Lionsgate UK

Somewhere along a desert highway in the American Southwest, where there's not much to do besides get drunk, shoot guns, and pump iron, a stranger comes to town.

In Love Lies Bleeding, a smart, sexy neo-noir, the drifter is a weightlifter named Jackie (Katy M O’Brian), who’s out to score a short-time cash gig to fund her way to bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. On Jackie’s first night training at the local gym, though, there’s trouble: she fights off a handsy jock’s advances, preferring to lock eyes with the gym’s lonely manager, Lou (Kristen Stewart). This is New Mexico, 1989: two women hooking up, publicly, might be a risky endeavour.

But director and co-writer Rose Glass upends all expectations: Love Lies Bleeding draws inspiration from Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg, as well as lesbian pulp fiction. Where Glass’s debut feature Saint Maud (2021) was confined to its rainy Northern seaside-setting and the twisted confines of its heroine’s religion-addled mind, her follow-up, co-written with Weronika Tofilska, unfolds as an irreverent, stylish update of classic crime fiction. When Lou and Jackie’s combustible romance veers into crime, Love Lies Bleeding becomes the queerest-ever gloss on James M Cain: The Bodybuilder Always Rings Twice.

Lou’s gym connections provide steroids that turn the gentle-natured Jackie into a raging, ripped superwoman. When Lou discovers that her lover’s new job is waitressing at the town’s deluxe gun-range/restaurant, she groans, “Oh, no. Don’t work there.” But the lovers are already deep in the undertow of Lou’s estranged father, Lou, Sr (Ed Harris, terrifying, pictured above), a small-time crimelord whose exploits draw the attention of the FBI.

Why doesn’t Lou blow town and run off with Jackie to Las Vegas? Lou’s bound to her hometown by a desire to protect her sister (Jena Malone), trapped in an abusive marriage to a womanising creep (Dave Franco). But something in Lou’s eyes, and in Stewart’s mesmerising, nervy performance, suggests that she hides a darker secret.

Director Glass, fascinated by roadside Americana – diners, big pickup trucks, and ubiquitous guns – frames action sequences and sweaty gym workouts with an appreciative, almost hungry eye. Audiences may be divided by the film’s final, violent swerve into the surreal, but Love Lies Bleeding’s portrait of doomed, dangerous romance knows where it’s going: straight into the pantheon of New Queer Cinema.

Something in Stewart’s mesmerising, nervy performance suggests that Lou hides a darker secret

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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