Love Lies Bleeding review — Juicy noir embraces and resists genre

Directed by Rose Glass | Written by Glass and Weronika Tofilska | 104 min | ▲▲▲▲△

What a terrifically pulpy headscratcher this is.

This is the second feature from Saint Maud filmmaker Glass, which couldn’t be more different from her debut. It’s a sleazy American noir that embraces the late 1980s setting and synthwave on the soundtrack, and then, about halfway in, takes a couple of left hand turns toward the psychedelic and, as one local filmmaker called it, Comedy Town. It really takes its time playing its hand and manages to not be obvious about it — you could call it a stealth comedy. It’s also a hard R rated, good time at the movies.

Kristen Stewart — as good here as anything I’ve seen her in — is Lou. She works at a gym where, in an opening shot, she’s got her arm up to the pit in a plugged toilet. It’s a fantastic visual for her life, stuck in this dead end desert town practically swimming in shit.

She’s estranged from her sleazebag father, Lou Sr (a truly creepy Ed Harris), who runs a gun range. She’s still close with her sister, Beth (Jena Malone), who’s married to JJ (Dave Franco), who takes the prize here for the biggest asshole.

Into this town walks Jackie (Katy O’Brian, who carries, even steals, a lot of what follows), a bodybuilder from Oklahoma. Lou falls hard for Jackie, and when JJ puts Beth into the hospital, Jackie does something she and Lou might both live to regret. Soon the bodies are stacking up, and Lou and Lou Sr. might be heading for a genuinely bloody resolution to their years of  resentment. And what role will Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov) play, given she’s got the hots for Lou?

The first half of this leans heavily into its era-specific genre tropes. I was reminded of movies like Blood Simple, After Dark My Sweet, and The Hot Spot, but what it’s probably most indebted to is the David Lynch of Wild At Heart and Lost Highway, as much in love with the darkness of the desert as the darkness of the soul.

The film’s sex scenes are pretty hot — Glass wants to make sure what’s to come is rooted in the passion Lou and Jackie have for each other, and that helps explain the intensity of the bloody violence when it arrives.

In the second half, all bets are off: As Jackie starts to abuse steroids, the film commits to her drugged world view, and that’s also when this thing start to get surreally hilarious. Beyond a few questionable plot issues, something happens in the last five minutes that can’t really be explained by what went before, so I won’t try.

Just go see it, we can talk after.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.