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MOVIES: Love Lies Bleeding - Review

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Love Lies Bleeding is a fierce double-hander of a movie from Rose Glass. Her breakout, Saint Maud, was a sensation, fierce and unstoppable from start to finish – shocking and provocative, and this 80s pulp thriller is a slow burn move of controlled chaos. It’s a love at first sight moment between reclusive gym manager Lou – one of the few queer folk in a hostile town, and newcomer Jackie who’s a bodybuilder passing through with dreams of hitting the big time. But Lou’s family has a criminal past, and when they cross her father – Ed Harris’ unflinchingly evil Lou Sr, events unfold in a chilling way that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

This is tonally very different from Saint Maud but there’s a lot of horror here. Katy O’Brian steals the scene as breakout Jackie, fierce and a real tour de force. Her path into embracing her anger and rage is handled superbly, the addiction and spiral clashes with Lou’s own path – she’s been through hell, both have – their only solace is each other. It’s them against the world, literally and figuratively, Ed Harris’ performance as Lou’s father is such a menacing character he plays it so convincingly well you can’t help but be kept on edge. Few actors can manage to keep a constant command of dread and despair whenever Harris is in the room – the third act tonal shift as the film changes from passion, romance born out of desire, to violence and chaos, keeping you on edge right the way through. The third act has such a mastery of tension-building suspense it’s hard to tear your eyes away from – the pairing of these two damaged characters with their damaged pasts – it takes the plot of something like Jack Reacher and turns it completely on its head, a lonesome drifter wondering into town and crashing the place at the heart of the mystery, upending the natural law and order of things – they could make 20 Jackie movies and I’d watch every single one of them – that’s how good O’Brian is.

But Jackie and Lou work when they’re best together and Glass understands the importance of the gaze – eye contact, and how vital it is for connection. I’d put this above Challengers in how the connection between characters develops, I just think it’s a mastery build between two doomed souls, and there’s a lot of commitment to love above all else here that may feel inherently cheesy, but it even fits in with Glass’ filmography, Saint Maud showed a different kind of warped love, obsession and desire – and there are touches of obsession here from Lou, controlling, we see hints of her past scars – the more you learn about the character it’s clear such a tapestry of events are unfolding.

Love Lies Bleeding has it all, violence that feels so over the top it’s hard to tear your eyes away from, the star power is near perfect and Kristen Stewart continues to cement her reputation as one of the best working actors. Film of the year contender – I fell head over heels with this and it’d be a perfect, much incredible, much more sinister pairing to The Iron Claw – a controlling father with his grip destroying a tortured family.

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