Arts and Culture

Love Lies Bleeding review: Thriller premiers at Manchester Film Festival

With standout performances from Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brien, this sophomore effort by Rose Glass is an excellent romantic thriller unbound by genre.

Spoilers ahead:

Director Glass continues to impress with this outing building on her acclaimed psychological horror ‘Saint Maud’.

Love Lies Bleeding follows the reclusive gym owner Lou (Stewart) who enters into an intense relationship with bodybuilder Jackie (O’Brien) whose aim is to get to Las Vegas for a competition. 

Jackie begins working for Lou’s estranged father, Lou Sr (Ed Harris), and Lous brother in law JJ (Dave Franco), the slimy, abusive husband to her sister Beth (Jena Malone). It begins to fall apart when Jackie kills JJ for hospitalising Beth. The film descends into a tense thriller which is as captivating as it is strange.

The chemistry between Stewart and O’Brien is what ties this film together with the complex nature of their relationship explored with the intimacy needed to keep the audience engaged.

What keeps this from being your standard romantic thriller is when it dips into the aspects of body horror and fantasy. These elements are shown primarily through Jackie’s steroid use, the visuals and effects really focusing on the character’s obsession with their dream.

The foreshadowing in the film also sets up viewers for the fantasy elements explored throughout with Jackie becoming giant from steroids – literally.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously though with darkly comedic moments which catch the audience off guard. Anna Baryshnikov’s performance as Daisy, an obsessive, desperate and dark character who just wants the affection of Lou makes for good comedic foil.

Ben Fordesmans cinematography gave the film its striking visuals paired with Clint Mansell’s score which made it feel eerie and supernatural.

However, what the film can be criticised for is its ambitious attempts to dip into so many different genres that it can at points make you question what is going on. It is not a confusing watch by any means but it can cause some audiences to be caught off guard by the switch between romantic thriller to fantasy body horror.

But it does make it unique which is a positive.

The red lit flashbacks, whilst visually different, do not add too much as we already have the answers to the questions through dialogue. Its addition does not add any more mystery to what is already an intriguing premise. 

It tries to portray the inner turmoil of Lou but Stewart’s performance is strong enough on its own so the shots seem futile apart from serving as something cool for an audience to look at on screen.

Overall, the film delivers a well written romance, stunning shots, off-kilter plot and standout performances as a fitting end to the Manchester Film Festival.

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