Love Lies Bleeding

The poster for Love Lies Bleeding featuring Katy O'Brian in a bikini holding a gun
Love Lies Bleeding. Credit: A24

Director: Rose Glass
Writer: Rose Glass and Weronika Tokilska
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brien, Anna Baryshnikov, Jena Malone, Dave Franco, Ed Harris
Distributor: A24

In the opening scenes of Love Lies Bleeding, the sophomore effort of writer/director Rose Glass (Saint Maud), Lou (Kristen Stewart) lives a life of misery. She’s a lesbian in middle of nowhere New Mexico. They work at a gym surrounded by meatheads and unclogging toilets.

She’s hounded by Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov) seemingly the only other lesbian in town. Her sister (Jena Malone) is married to a walking turd of a husband (Dave Franco). Conspicuous FBI agents hound her to give up her gun smuggling father Lou Sr. (Ed Harris). Quitting smoking is a seemingly impossible task. Life is not good.

Katy O'Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding. They're sitting in a gym next to each other.

One night, a new woman walks into her gym. This individual is sculpted perfection. Lou cannot take her eyes away from this muscled goddess.

This new person walks out with two meatheads but her eyes are only on Lou. They disparage Lou and this new person punches one of them in the face. A relationship is born over mutual attraction and steroids.

This relationship is at the center of Love Lies Bleeding. But Rose Glass and co-writer Weronika Tokilska explore love of various shades. They’re interested in how, what, and who we love drives our desires for better for worse.

These are people running from their pasts and their sins, hoping for redemption. Only those things catch up to with them in terrible ways.

Katy O'Brian as Jackie posing for a bodybuilding competition

At the center of all of this is Katy O’Brian as Lou’s muscled goddess Jackie. It is not exaggerating to say O’Brian gives the first great performance of 2024. Unsurprisingly, it’s an incredible physical performance. O’Brian flexes and poses to be alluring to Stewart who always looks up adoringly.

Still this is a goddess and goddesses are creatures who crave adulation and wrath simultaneously. When Jackie becomes violent, it’s in brutal physical ways. 

Katy O'Brian poses for Kristen Stewart

If this was only a physical performance, it would still be one of the year’s best. However, O’Brian imbues Jackie with an interior life as massive as her body.

If her exterior is a Greek sculpture, then her interior is a canyon. There’s a darkness and mystery in her. This is someone who has chosen to live off the grid as a drifter and her action throughout the film hint at potential reasons. O’Brian’s performance hints at violence lying just underneath the surface of a smiling exterior.

And Kristen Stewart’s performance as Lou matches her. Lou has her own secrets and vices. She tries to quit smoking but as she pulls out a cigarette the image of a gun comes to mind. She hates her father Lou Sr. for reasons potentially related to a criminal past.

When she and Jackie have to dump a body, Lou has a location and means of doing so. Both Lou and Jackie have secret pasts they hide.

Kristen Stewart lies on a bed reading a pamphlet about Las Vegas

Glass, as a director, makes their each interaction as explosive and queer as possible.  Their expressions of love can be as beautiful as fireworks such as every time they have sex.

Other times it’s dangerous as the film’s events drive a wedge between them. Each woman is both the match and the powder keg in the realtionship.

They may love each other but their inability to truly open up to each other may destroy them. It’s great seeing a queer relationship this complex on screen. 

Ed Harris in Love Lies Bleeding

Their greatest obstacle though is Ed Harris as Lou Sr., a man who does not hide his violent demeanor. Harris in his most recent films excelled at playing monsters and Lou Sr. might be the most terrifying of them.

Sporting a skullet and wide framed glasses, the craggy lines on his face, Harris makes him not just ready for violence but a man for whom acts of violence are like breathing.

Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding covered in blood

Lou frequently flashes back to her father with a gun in scenes shot only in red. Even in the presently, Glass and cinematographer Ben Fordesman take every opportunity to frame Lou Sr. in red whether lit by coke machine or the red walls of his home. Lou Sr. may not be the devil but he is certainly an evil embodied.  

Kristen Stewart smokes in a kitchen in Love Lies Bleeding.

The hellish imagery of Lou Sr. harkens back to the hallucinatory visions in Glass’ previous film Saint Maud. And Loves Lies Bleeding is as hallucinatory as it is violent.

Lou can only remember her past being nothing but blood soaked. As Jackie gets deeper and deeper into using steroids, her grasp on reality begins cracking. Her ability to control herself and her body becomes harder.

No other director makes losing ones grasp of reality as disorienting as Rose Glass does. She uses this loss of control to push the walls in closer on her characters.

It’s the moment when you know that things have truly gotten out of control for the characters. It’s a bold filmmaking choice from a director that seems to only make bold choices

Katy O'Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding. They're in the back of a pick up truck

Love Lies Bleeding proves that Rose Glass is one of the most exciting new voices in film. Her queer, sun cracked noir follow up to Saint Maud is violent and hallucinatory. Katy O’Brian gives one of the best performances of the year so far.

The rest of the cast fully commits looking as scuzzy and forlorn as the town they live. Glass wants to remind people that love isn’t just a beautiful act but also a potentially violent one too. 

Love Lies Bleeding is currently playing in theaters.