Love Lies Bleeding Review

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Love Lies Bleeding will likely draw comparison to Drive-Away Dolls, albeit for superficial reasons. Both are period pieces, both center on two lesbians who get roped into a crime, and both contain a road trip. Tonally, though, these two films couldn’t be more far removed. One is a carefree romp where the other is an exercise in anxiety. Even when the titular drive-away dolls were in peril, you sensed that everything would work out for them. In Love Lies Bleeding, there are few guarantees for our leads. As different as they are, each film hits target point-blank. The question is, “Which should you watch first?”

Ideally, Love Lies Bleeding will commence this double feature, allowing Drive-Away Dolls to lighten the mood. While Love Lies Bleeding lacks the psychological horror elements of director Rose Glass’ debut picture, Saint Maud, her sophomore outing won’t send you into a soothing slumber either. The film opens with the arrival of Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a bodybuilder hitchhiking and sleeping her way to a competition in Vegas. She makes an extended pitstop in a small town where she meets Lou (Kristen Stewart), a gym manager with a complicated family life. Her father (Ed Harris) is a gun range owner with skeletons in the closet, as well as a secret canyon. As Lou tries to cut her dad out of her life, she attempts to get her sister away from a violent spouse.

Jena Malone gives a brief yet effective performance as Beth, Lou’s sister who constantly makes excuses for her husband JJ (Dave Franco). Even when JJ puts her in intensive care, Beth insists that she loves him. Beth’s blind dedication only fuels Lou’s desire to put JJ six feet under. While Lou knows abuse when she sees it, she’s not in the healthiest relationship either. Stewart and O’Brian share a powerful chemistry, but Lou and Jackie’s relationship immediately gets off on a troubling foot. Lou offers Jackie steroids, inadvertently turning her into a ticking time bomb. There are times when it looks like Jackie’s muscles might burst out of her skin. That doesn’t happen, although Jackie eventually cracks with Lou having to pick up the pieces.

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Stewart gives a gripping performance as a woman roped into a messy situation. One minute, Lou is several steps ahead of everybody else. The next, she’s scrambling to keep up. The second half of Love Lies Bleeding is a nonstop juggling act with curveballs continually coming at Lou. O’Brian is equally arresting as Jackie, who proves to be the wild card that Lou can’t control. Despite their evident issues, Lou and Jackie’s relationship is built on a loving foundation. They manage to bring out the best and worst in each other, but we want to see their romance prevail amidst the criminal activity.

Love Lies Bleeding’s gritty realism is occasionally intermitted by psychedelic detours. Sometimes these emphasize the paranoia that a character is enduring, although a particular dream sequence toward the end feels like it belongs in another movie. Let’s just say, remember the Super Hot Giant Alien from Dude, Where’s My Car? The ending also wraps matters up a little too neatly, but it by no means diminishes that’s ultimately a thrilling, intense, and even romantic film.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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