The romantic thriller is something we don't really see often and it's a damn shame. They genuinely can provide such a different lens into a wider genre; True Romance being such a wonderful mix of acting, writing and directing, and Out of Sight sizzling thanks to the chemistry between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. With Love Lies Bleeding, Rose Glass delivers something quite stunning with her sophomore directorial effort - a romantic thriller set against the backdrop of the gym and bodybuilding scene of the 80s.

Lou (Kristen Stewart) is a reclusive gym manager who falls hard for Jackie (Katy O'Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder who's heading to Las Vegas to pursue her dream. Their love soon leads to violence as they get pulled deep into the web of Lou's criminal family.
Love Lies Bleeding is a film that just oozes confidence both in front of and behind the camera. Rose Glass directs with an intimate nature, the sex scenes in particular between Lou and Jackie, yet it becomes frantic when required, some of the workout montages getting me ready to walk straight outside and join a gym. Along with Weronika Tofilska, Glass writes a lesbian love story drenched in blood, sweat and tears that starts as a touching love story but soon descends into violent chaos laced with some fantastical elements that suit the narrative to a tee. There's a shock factor to the violence scattered throughout that just adds to its impact, handled with plenty of confidence by Glass.

This includes the film culminating in a sequence that is hinted at throughout as Jackie starts to use steroids. Now, there will be a lot of people put off by what happens in the film's finale however, while it has the potential to feel visually jarring, it matches the fantastical nature of earlier moments in the film. It shows that Rose Glass isn't here to be a conventional filmmaker and you have to admire the willingness to go so far outside of the box. Clint Mansell's dreamy score really does accompany the love story, particularly the fantastical side of it, incredibly well too.
The real driving force behind Love Lies Bleeding is the two strong lead performances it possesses in the form of Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian. Together they feel like a natural fit, Stewart's Lou enamoured with Jackie instantly, giving the film flow that would be missing if the chemistry wasn't there. O'Brian is the true star of the show though, doing most of the heavy lifting (pun intended) in such a frantic film. She may have the physique for the role however, there's much more to the performance under the surface, O'Brian excelling at the more sensitive side to the character too. It's great to see Ed Harris bring a sinister nature to his character, something he's just one of the greats at doing, while Dave Franco gets the chance to play a scumbag himself, outright horrible and in need of a taste of his own medicine.

Love Lies Bleeding will leave you wanting to fall in love and pump some iron, or even both at the same time. It's a film that puts Rose Glass out there as one of the more interesting filmmakers working today so her next project is eagerly anticipated already.

Verdict: ★★★★


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