We’ve still got a couple of months before Kristen Stewart’s new movie Love Lies Bleeding hits theaters, but the LGBTQ+ romantic thriller is already making waves. After its trailer dropped, fans expressed their excitement over seeing the Twilight star — who recently explained how the vampire series is queer-coded — in another openly gay role, and since the movie is being produced by A24, anticipation for the bodybuilder thriller is pretty high. Love Lies Bleeding premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 20, and now we’ve got our first look at the critics’ reactions.
Let’s start with what we know about Love Lies Bleeding. In Rose Glass’ second directorial effort, Kristen Stewart stars as Lou, a gym manager who falls for Katy O’Brian’s Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder. Their love leads them into a world of crime with Lou’s father (also Lou, played by Ed Harris) and revenge. Deadline reports that the film elicited hoots, hollers and cheers from the Sundance audience, as Valerie Complex notes the electric toxicity of the leading couple. The critic writes:
Stewart and O’Brian are electric as the toxic, uhaul duo of star-crossed psychos in love. Stewart, having tackled a diverse array of roles, demonstrates her expansive range, leaving no doubt about her acting ability. O’Brian shines as an emerging talent, an actress who embraces and confidently portrays her full authentic self on screen. In Love Lies Bleeding, Glass takes a snapshot of America. Saturated with guns, marked by bloodshed and characterized by lawlessness. However, when you add in some sexy, campy queers sprinkled in for razzle dazzle, you get a film like this full of thrills and captivating energy.
Matthew Creith of The Wrap calls Kristen Stewart a “powerhouse,” and says Katy O’Brian sinks her teeth into her meaty role. It’s clear, the critic says, that Rose Glass delights in making audiences squirm, writing:
Love Lies Bleeding is a bombastic twist on the crime drama genre with 1980s flourishes and an ominous score from composer Clint Mansell. Stewart proves to be a powerhouse performer in a role defined by sexuality, love, lust, anger, and connection. As Lou’s family becomes a stereotype of criminal activity, her sense of self gets lost in the mix, leading to a jaw-dropping ending.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety says the lead actress shows vulnerability — a pivot from her typically cool façade — in a film that encapsulates the noir requirements of compulsive love and the crimes that get in the way of it. Gleiberman continues:
The film’s sly joke is that Jackie, in 1989, is becoming a new kind of woman, one who wears her strength on the outside. And that’s what Lou and Jackie’s love is rooted in: a new feminine power. Love Lies Bleeding turns consciously wild and garish, and you may think that the film is losing control, yet Rose Glass is fiercely in control of what she’s doing. She’s made a midnight noir that shoots over the top of our expectations but lands where it should, at a place where even valorous people have to go to extremes.
Kate Erbland of IndieWire grades Love Lies Bleeding a B, saying audiences won’t be able to look away from this film — even when they want to — in Rose Glass’ ambitious project that is equally alluring and repellant. Erbland says:
It’s the pair’s crackling chemistry — which Glass funnels into a series of genuinely hot sex scenes that more than prove the necessity for such sequences in films that hinge on actual human romantic relationships — that drives Love Lies Bleeding, an alternately alluring and excruciating crime thriller that also smacks of body horror and midnight movie thrills. Glass, who previously earned scads of instant fans with her Saint Maud, again tackles the human body as a vessel for pain, pleasure, and so much more, though the brutally blunt imagery that comes to dominate the film loses its power over time.
David Rooney of THR says there’s not an ounce of restraint in this film, and the way Rose Glass keeps upping the ante on just how extreme the movie can be makes it perfect for A24. This hallucinatory trip is sure to be a talker, Rooney says, writing:
When a magnificently gnarled Ed Harris, wearing stringy Argus Filch hair and chomping on a horned beetle in a moment of psychotic rage is far from the weirdest thing in a movie, you know you’re in for a wild experience. That’s what Brit director Rose Glass delivers in Love Lies Bleeding, a lesbian neo-noir drenched in brooding nightscapes, violent crime and more hardcore KStew cool than has ever been packaged in such a potent concentrate. Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t want to watch Kristen Stewart flicking back a greasy shag, driving an old pickup and chain-smoking in grubby tank tops?
Love Lies Bleeding sounds like a violent and wholly unsettling experience, albeit with an intense relationship between Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian’s characters that’s sure to attract more than a few moviegoers. The film is set to be released on Friday, March 8, so in the meantime be sure to check out what else is coming to theaters with our 2024 movie calendar.