Love Lies Bleeding, an intoxicating new A24 thriller exploring human nature and an unorthodox love story while avoiding traditional media cliches, marks another triumph for Rose Glass’ cinematic repertoire. 

Released in theaters in the United States on March 8, the film follows Kristen Stewart’s Lou, a despondent gym manager in New Mexico who stays in her small town to protect her sister Beth from her abusive husband. She soon becomes captivated by Katy O’Brian’s Jackie, a drifter and passionate bodybuilder on her way to a competition in Las Vegas while she searches for work and attends Lou’s gym. 

The pair quickly strike up a romantic relationship. As Jackie’s path converges with the rest of Lou’s dysfunctional family, their affair spirals into one of mania and recklessness as they embark on a bloody escapade for revenge.

Stewart delivers a strong performance, providing a nuanced depiction of an anxiety-ridden loner enthralled by a newfound romance plagued by familial trauma. Once widely panned for the impassive performances she delivered as Bella Swan in the Twilight saga, Stewart has recently maximized her deadpan delivery and professional prowess. Her talent is on full display in this film

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The film also explores gender in a nuanced manner. Jackie and Lou present hyper-masculine tropes such as bodybuilding, steroid culture and pumping iron, and frequently standoff against villainous male adversaries. While body horror, gore and violence are prominent devices throughout the story, they are absent within Lou and Jackie’s intimate scenes, allowing Glass an outlet to portray their romance as a purity against the backdrop of surrealist depravity.

The film does not fit neatly into one cinematic category, combining thriller, romance, horror and dark comedy in an outrageous yet captivating story of love and sacrifice.

The visual aesthetics of the film mark another success, from the vast shots of the New Mexico landscapes to Lou’s violent flashbacks filmed with a red tint. Ben Fordesman’s cinematography adds to the tense storytelling and bolsters the film’s optics.

While it does not overtly fall under the realm of fantasy or supernatural horror, Glass toes the line between reality and surrealism, a balance also evident in her 2019 acclaimed debut film Saint Maud. Both films are overt in shock value, with multiple cringe-worthy shots and gruesome depictions of violence, but Love Lies Bleeding follows a more grounded approach to real-life terrors assisted by some fantastical storytelling elements.

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While the final sequence takes several narrative twists, it is Lou and Jackie’s obsession with one another that fuels the story. Jackie remains dead set on her bodybuilding aspirations while Lou wants to keep their relationship afloat and escape her ill-contented livelihood. While flirting with an increasingly chaotic and outlandish plot runs the risk of losing viewers, the emotional stakes established from the beginning keep audiences captivated.

For viewers interested in a nightmarish yet oddly endearing romance, Love Lies Bleeding is currently playing exclusively in theaters, but will eventually be available for streaming on Max.