The Ultimate Campy Sapphic Thriller: A Love Lies Bleeding Review

Jackie (Left, Katy O’Brian) and Lou (Right, Kristen Stewart) sharing a moment.

This review contains major spoilers.

Murder, morally gray sapphics, an 80s synth pop soundtrack and giants? These are the things you can expect from Rose Glass’ gripping A24 film, “Love Lies Bleeding.” But before we dissect the mayhem of the film, let’s summarize: This story follows Lou (Kristen Stewart), the manager of her hometown gym, who falls for Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a bodybuilder who has been hitchhiking across the country trying to follow her dreams of competing in a Los Vegas bodybuilding competition. The pair fall quickly in love before a murder gets in the way of their romance. In an act of empathetic anguish, Jackie kills Lou’s abusive brother-in-law after he hospitalizes Lou’s sister, shaking the couple and putting an abrupt end to their honeymoon period. Lou springs into action and begins to “take care of everything.” It begins to dawn on Jackie that this isn’t Lou’s first time dealing with the aftermath of a crime. Chaos, shenanigans and even more crime quickly ensue, as the pair continue to explore their comically complicated love affair. 

I was blown away by the beauty of the visuals from shot one. Half of the film is overflowing with eerie frames of empty roads lit by lonesome headlights, shootouts at sunset, and flashbacks that are close ups on our characters. The other half is full of crackling neon lights illuminating our lovers, the simply breathtaking views of New Mexico or the soft glow that follows Lou and Jackie in their most tender moments. Cinematographer Ben Fordesman exhibits a knack for whimsy and drama playing with light and composition throughout the film, bringing viewers into this strange and uncanny world. Fordesman masterfully balances the juxtaposition of the love shown on screen with truly jarring images that send a wave of shock through you, reminding you that the love we’re seeing ultimately does lie bleeding in the end.

Alongside the beautiful cinematography, we have two absolute powerhouse actors that keep you engaged and on the edge of your seat. Stewart and O’Brian balance drama, comedy and complete absurdity in a rare and effervescent way. Stewart delivered so many of her lines with a dry humor that had my late-night “Love Lies Bleeding” audience laughing during the most serious moments. O’Brian on the other hand plays everything with such stoicism and minutiae that the two actors side by side are complete opposites in all the best ways. Outside of our two leads, I believe Anna Baryshnikov gave an absolutely stunning breakout performance. Baryshnikov plays Daisy, a girl trying to pursue Lou throughout the film. While trying to make her crush known to Lou, she unexpectedly gets caught in the crossfire of the couple’s criminal activities (literally). Baryshnikov toes the line of lovable airhead and conniving mastermind masterfully, knowing when to exaggerate and when subtlety is key, making Daisy’s short-lived plot relevancy shine brightly. 

For all of the stellar acting and stunning cinematography, I will note that there are many times the film’s writing reads as a little juvenile. This is particularly prevalent in most of Lou’s dialogue. Some examples of this include Lou looking her father dead in the eye and whining “But Dad, I’m not like you.” or when pleading with Jackie saying “Baby, it wasn’t even like that,” or “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you,” wistfully while being shot at. Stewart is no stranger to some cheesy writing *cough, cough, Twilight…* but I believe she counteracts this by playing these lines with a particular ridiculousness that you can interpret as an intentionally camp choice. 

The campy stylings of this film don’t end with cheesy line delivery though, and my favorite questionable moment of the film is when Jackie seemingly “hulks out” and becomes a giant. Yes, you read that right, a giant. Throughout the film, director Rose Glass poses the question, “How far would you go in the name of love?” This moment can be seen through Jackie’s giant form being a hyperbolic metaphor for how large love can make you feel and how deeply empowering that feeling is. Is it a little ridiculous? Absolutely. Did I have a hard time taking the scene seriously? Yes. But is it fun and a little silly? Definitely. Whether you interpret the film as a campy comedic thriller or a drama slasher with a dash of cheesy writing, “Love Lies Bleeding” will have you on your toes from minute one, waiting to see what these deeply flawed characters will do next.