Every once in a while you get a film that seems supremely unconcerned with being liked. That’s Love Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass, 2024) to a T.
Starring Kristen Stewart as an introverted gym manager with a dark past and featuring Katy O’Brian in a towering physical performance as aspiring bodybuilder Jackie, Love Lies Bleeding is the ultimate lesbian revenge thriller we’ve all been waiting for. Stylistically invigorating and continually surprising, people will be talking about this for ages.
Lou (Kristen Stewart) has dreams of escaping the shady community she’s grown up in, but she’s currently exerting a lot of mental energy worrying about her older sister (Jena Malone) who is stuck in an increasingly dangerous relationship with JJ (Dave Franco), employed by her estranged father (Ed Harris).
Her life starts to turn around, however, when Jackie walks into her gym. She is a relentlessly committed amateur bodybuilder who immediately catches her eye. The two are drawn to each other from the start, and it isn’t long before they begin a passionate love affair. But when Jackie makes an impulsive, steroid-fueled decision with violent consequences, the two are bound together, determined to find a way out of their shared predicament.
Director Rose Glass, who made her feature-length debut in 2019 with Saint Maud, delivers on a bold and confident sophomore effort. The way that she depicts the tortured relationship Lou has with her family, as well as Jackie’s self-destructive narrative arc, brings an intensity to the production that never lets up, not even for a minute. Both the sex and violence featured within the film – and there’s quite a bit of both – are visceral; dual passions that power Love Lies Bleeding. Kristen Stewart is entirely at ease in the body of Lou, blending the deep loyalty she has for the people in her life with a Honda Civic full of baggage from a traumatic childhood. When she finds a connection with Jackie, her presence visibly lightens – here is someone she can give herself to fully.
Love Lies Bleeding is a frenzied, stylistic production, as much a cultivation of vibes as a coherent narrative. Not every wild swing pays off, but here’s something to be said for a cinematic experience that so thoroughly knows what it is and doesn’t even consider apologising for it. Stewart and O’Brian are incandescent as two individuals who can’t help but blow up their own lives at every turn.