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‘Love Lies Bleeding’ review: Kristen Stewart shines in new thriller from ‘Saint Maud’ director

It's a decidedly unsentimental portrayal of romance, but Rose Glass' bodybuilding-packed follow up to 'Saint Maud' is a true triumph.

4.0 rating

By Anna Smith

Katy M O.Brian and Kristen Stewart in 'Love Lies Bleeding' (Picture: Press)

Saint Maud’s Rose Glass directs Kristen Stewart in a pulpy, queer romance – it’s enough to get many film fans through the door of Love Lies Bleeding, and good news: it doesn’t disappoint. It’s as weird and wonderful as you’d expect from the British writer-director of the acclaimed horror, who has teamed up with a co-writer, Weronika Tofilska, for this US-set thriller. Opening this year’s Glasgow Film Festival with a bang, it’s a story of lust, crime and corruption, with a hefty dose of weight lifting thrown in. 

It’s the 1980s, and Lou (Stewart) works in a gym in small town New Mexico. Her life brightens when body builder Jackie (Katy M O’Brian) hitchhikes into town, with dreams of competing in a contest in Vegas. The pair quickly become an item, but Jackie’s burgeoning steroid habit isn’t the only thing getting out of hand. Lou has a decidedly dodgy family, led by her gun-toting father (Ed Harris), who sports one of the most memorable ‘skullets’ ever committed to cinema. Her brother in law (Dave Franco) is a hideous husband to her sister Beth (Jena Malone), and tensions escalate while love blossoms.

Stewart and O’Brian are terrific together in a credible but decidedly unsentimental romance – this is a world of sweat, dirt, violence and terrible decisions. The pulsating electro soundtrack from Clint Mansell enhances the seedy 80s vibe, though the film perhaps invites more comparisons with 90s movies: Bound is an obvious one, but Rose Glass also references Showgirls. It’s a bold move to compare your film to one that’s celebrated as a cult disaster, but it underlines the humour and confidence that radiate from the director’s work. Love Lies Bleeding seems destined for a different kind of cult status, and it feels like an exciting moment for queer cinema.