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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Love Lies Bleeding - Review`

Nothing excites me more than a neon 80s film that promises good music, grainy cinematography and some choice costuming. Love Lies Bleeding is such a strong representation for this era, ticking all the boxes and adding in lesbianism and crime. It is firing on all cylinders as it details the strong narrative and visual style. Its pace is determined and quick without feeling like it's pulling you along too far or holding you back. The performances and complicated dynamics are seamlessly introduced and the chemistry shared by the actors makes for a fast acting thrill ride. 

Lou (Kristen Stewart) works at a gym in central America, guns and beers all around. Coincidentally, so are muscled up women, one woman in particular, Jackie (Katy O'Brian) who has just come into town on her way to compete in a bodybuilding competition down in Florida. 

The gym life is not all it cracks up to be, when Jackie and Lou get closer, moving in together on night one, Jackie learns more about Lou’s life. Her father owns a gun range where Jackie just got hired as a waiter. Lou tells Jackie to be careful around him, that he’s not exactly the nicest at times and we see that Lou has clearly had issues with him in her upbringing. 

There is a lot of backstory in this film left unsaid, for us to piece together, but in a way that doesn’t feel skimmed over or left out. Its there for those who care to look deeper or think harder, but the film has ideas it would like to spend more time on. 

Things go a bit south with the lovers and complications lead to a family interfering, state fleeing and iron pumping conclusion.

The film is so distinctly in its era, with every single frame oozing 80s goodness, with the music, dusty look and homemade tank tops. The look of the film is given to us in sweeping wide shots, unafraid to let us see the desolation around the dust filled town where they live. Cinematographer Ben Fordesman is also well versed in British indie films, knowing when to get in on the action and emotion, with a grit and care that adds so much in helping you connect to the characters in the relatively outlandish world we’re thrust into. 

The balance between the wide and closeups gives the film a elevated look from a regular indie film, this one has the balls to know where it is and what kind of story it wants to tell. 

I didn’t exactly expect what I got from this film based on the marketing, it’s a lot more contained of a story than I expected which I think works in its favour. You expect to the be taken on an all out ride with no stops for characters but Love Lies Bleeding balances out the action with emotion really well, taking the time in the beginning to set the tone of the film. In saying that, it also skips a lot of the growth of Lou and Jackie’s relationship that the film feels like we don’t need to see. Initially it was a surprise to be deeper into their routine than I expected but once the dynamic gets going, you understand why the decision was made to get into the meat of the relationship. We’ve got a lot more story to tell. 

While the story is grand and expansive, its also a tiny little story with very few characters that all seem to be up to a lot. We get quite a side story of Lou’s sister, Beth (Jena Malone) and her complicated relationship with her husband, JJ (Dave Franco). This side story is our first taste of the real tone of this film, which it intentionally hides from you in the opening, dropping tiny little hints as we go, until an impactful conclusion that sets the story in motion.

So all in all, big fan of Love Lies Bleeding and its deceptive marketing to tell a story that kept me engaged the whole time, reactive and in awe of the visuals and music. This is a film that I rarely just walk out of and think “solid”. It was a good time, knew what it was doing and when to do it, with the perfect cast for the roles they’re in. I haven’t yet seen Rose Glass’ first feature, Saint Maud but this has motivated me to give it a chance. 


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