Love Lies Bleeding – the neo-noir queer thriller we need right now.

Some movies guide you along that all too familiar route, giving you that comfort of familiarity while trying to add in a few more new things to keep you guessing.  Then there are others that take you on a wild detour into uncharted territory while still offering up that familiar feel. Director Rose Glass’s previous film, “Saint Maud” promised to be a wild ride into fanaticism, but ended up sticking too close to the horror genre clichés. Now, with her follow up “Love Lies Bleeding,” we end up getting that similar vibe of a neo-noir 90’s western thriller that is unabashedly a queer film about love, loss, family and the physical and mental effects of steroid use. 

The story is set in 1989 New Mexico, the story follows Lou (Kristen Stewart) a gym manager stuck in a small town who is held stagnant by her sketchy dad, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris). Things heat up when Lou falls for a drifter named Jackie (Katy O’Brien) who falls hard and fast in love. 

As their relationship evolves beyond egg whites and prepping Jackie for her bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas, Lou and Jackie are forced into hiding when a domestic violence situation with Lou’s sister Beth (Jena Malone) and her husband JJ (Dave Franco) escalates out of control. 

This feels like a seemingly straightforward story with glimpses of Drive and Thelma & Louise as Jackie and Lou are thrust into situations they can’t get out of easily. The trope of a stranger getting stuck in a small town on their way to the top has been done many times, and while a similar path is trodden on here, it is the delivery from the actors involved that elevates this story. 

Leading the charge in these performances is Kristen Stewart. It’s hard not to love anything that Stewart is in. She has crafted a series of films that are incredibly concise and rely on her endearing performance to be the center of the story. It is something that every character she inhabits exuberates. It is no different here, Stewart’s Lou is tough yet restrained. When we first meet her she is unclogging a filthy blocked toilet as she is being sleazed all over by a coworker. The swirling mix of brown, yellow and white toilet paper is the perfect reflection of the state of the small town. While she knows everything her father Lou Snr. is capable of and has done in the past to anyone that gets in his way, she has done her best to separate herself from this life and having anything to do with him, outside of the issues between Beth and JJ. Her introduction to Jackie and how this fuses her past together is something only an actress like Stewart can pull off convincingly. 

Harris is incredibly creepy and intimidating. His reach extends across the entire town, his ability to control and manipulate everyone around him is sickening. It is very difficult to watch at times, in all the best ways. The chemistry between Harris and Stewart is incredibly uncomfortable and their disdain for each other builds naturally till it overflows at the climax of the movie. 

One of the biggest surprises was Jackie, O’Brien goes from wide eyed newcomer just trying to find her way, doing whatever she can to get a place to stay and enough money for the next leg to her Las Vegas destination. The transition as she gets comfortable with Lou in between her steroid injections and the way her body reacts both physically and her mental state is reflected in both her performance and the snappy editing work from Glass hammers home the evolution her body is going through. This reaches a fever pitch at the end of the film with a sequence similar to Eric Bana’s Hulk that rounds out the story. 

If you’re up for a steamy neo-noir with a side of ’80s nostalgia, Love Lies Bleeding might just hit the spot.

Love Lies Bleeding is out now in cinemas.

Love Lies Bleeding – the neo-noir queer thriller we need right now.

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