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Love Lies Bleeding

‘Love Lies Bleeding (2024)’ is a sweaty, grimy, bloody romantic crime thriller about a disillusioned woman who falls in love with a bodybuilding hitchhiker whose steroid-infused rage soon lands both of them in big trouble. It unashamedly – proudly, even – takes the often explicitly cishet, masculine revenge/crime-gone-wrong genre and tells it from a distinctly LGBT+, feminine angle that doesn’t feel exploitative despite its graphic nature. It also doesn’t box itself in with that ‘feminine’ label, allowing its female characters to exist with all the complexities and imperfections usually afforded to their male counterparts. It’s refreshing to see a story like this be told from a creative team of primarily women, and director Rose Glass continues to impress with her sophomore feature. Filled with palpable texture and peppered with moments of stark surrealism, the feature typically avoids convention despite telling a fairly conventional tale. It’s the kind of film you can almost smell, a dirty and down-to-earth representation of small-town America that’s the opposite of ‘Hollywood’ (whatever that term is typically associated with). Its moments of shocking violence punctuate the interpersonal drama at its core and inherently raise its stakes. Kristen Stewart is really good a Lou, with a non-showy performance that feels tactile and real. She’s able to hide a real darkness just beneath her shy yet brash exterior, and her initially meek interactions with Katy O’Brian believably bubble into the full-blown immersion associated with head-over-heels love. O’Brian turns in similarly impressive work, portraying a dangerous but vulnerable person whose inner life is layered and messy and likely not all that much more stable prior to her experiments with steroids. She’s so ripped she could easily play She-Hulk without the aid of CGI (which, incidentally, I’d love to see), but it isn’t her stunning physique that leaves the strongest impression and that’s no easy feat. The supporting cast do a good job at making the world feel palpable, with Ed Harris’ hair extensions always threatening to outact everyone they share a frame with (Harris himself is good too, of course) and Dave Franco channeling his brother to convincingly play a real creep (and somehow garner a hint of sympathy with a single word in his most memorable scene). Although it’s not always as exciting or intense as I’d like, the piece has a strong atmosphere throughout and its world really does feel tangible. Its complex characters constantly reveal darker and darker aspects of themselves, all while its heroes fall deeper and deeper into an all consuming romance that might just doom them both. Its infrequent violence is as shocking as it is affecting, and its confident surrealism gives it a slightly ambiguous air that adds to its overall effect. It’s a strong example of female and LGBT+ representation, too. It’s not as good as Glass’ previous picture, ‘Saint Maude (2019)’, but it’s a really solid follow-up that’s effective pretty much across the board.