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El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

‘Love Lies Bleeding’ oozes with carnal tension and heart

Director Rose Glass’s refreshing take on the noir genre tackles impulse and intimacy with power
“Love Lies Bleeding” brilliantly potrays complex themes of pain, identity, and love. Photo | Anna Kooris / A24

“Love Lies Bleeding,” A24’s latest romantic thriller, is no stranger to love, lies or bleeding, and all three soar to new heights under director Rose Glass’s camera. Released on March 8, the movie centers around Lou (Kristen Stewart), a cynical gym manager, and Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a hitchhiking bodybuilder in a New Mexico small town in 1989. The two instantly connect when Jackie begins training at Lou’s gym, and they soon get swept up in a complex mess of family history, impulsive murder and lesbian romance.

Right off the bat, the film’s cinematography and lighting are absolutely gorgeous — light hits every shot at exactly the right angle, and emotion bleeds off each frame. The subtle framing details come into immediate focus when Jackie and Lou first meet. They look at each other with hesitant but unconditional desire, and from there, the audience falls headfirst into the pair’s charming personalities and complex ambitions. The film’s masterful use of tension makes it difficult not to fall in love alongside the characters themselves.

Lou is struggling with her relationship with her sister, Beth, who is unable to acknowledge her husband’s abusiveness. Jackie leaves her unsupportive home to pursue a bodybuilding contest in Las Vegas but becomes increasingly violent as she struggles to control her bloody impulses. Their motivations are distinct: Lou wants her sister’s safety, Jackie wants to prove herself with bodybuilding and the two both want each other. These desires weave in and out throughout the film, creating a storyline that is easy to follow but compelling nonetheless.

Jackie (Katy O’Brian) and Lou (Kristen Stewart) embrace on a tennis court. Photo | Anna Kooris / A24

Although the balance between hopeless romantic and cold-hearted killer is difficult to strike, both Stewart and O’Brian handle their roles artfully. It’s clear that Stewart has long moved on from the reputation she earned as a wooden actor in “Twilight” — her character’s anxiety is evident in every small gesture, and her performance is subtle but candid. Combined with O’Brian’s wide-eyed loyalty, the pair share genuine chemistry that keeps the audience’s eyes fixed to the screen.

The movie makes use of mood in every way possible, from the wardrobe choices to a soundtrack that evokes an atmosphere of electric tension, consisting of ‘80s synths and anxious drums. The presentation of the film ties everything together, despite the individual components — wholesome romance, emotional turmoil and bloody action — not looking particularly compatible on paper. “Love Lies Bleeding” feels deliberate in a way that action movies rarely attempt to be.

Despite the majority of recent movies featuring violence that feels cartoonish and frivolous, the gore in this film is genuinely shocking, even to a desensitized audience. Instead of using gore excessively, the director uses it with purpose, heightening the tension and turning irreverence into beauty. In doing so, it is able to tie violence and violation into the most everyday of objects — even a coffee table can serve as a symbol of brutality.

“Love Lies Bleeding” is committed to portraying the limits of violence. Instead of depicting its protagonists as unstoppable action heroes, it embraces their vulnerability, creating characters who are strong yet sympathetic. Brilliant characterization shines through every aspect of the movie, from the camerawork to the script, and the result is an audience that waits with bated breath to see where Lou and Jackie end up.

However, the ending is too out of place with the grounded nature of the setup: although it doesn’t completely ruin the entirety of the film, it feels less like a satisfying resolution so much as a fever dream. While the film is also capable of utilizing absurdist imagery powerfully — Jackie’s muscles and veins are shown popping to cartoonish sizes, Hulk-style — it cheapens the well-established stakes in the climax, making for a disappointing ending to an otherwise powerful movie.

Apart from the ending’s misstep, everything else feels overwhelmingly real, and it is that rawness that sets this film apart from other modern romantic thrillers. Be it the camera angle, the acting or the soundtrack, “Love Lies Bleeding” pushes emotional intimacy at the audience with everything it has. Unlike Jackie, the movie is hardly afraid of itself; rather, the audience should be afraid of how long its touch will stay with them.


About the Contributors
Jillian Ju
Jillian Ju, Staff Writer
Jillian Ju is a sophomore and staff writer for El Estoque. In their free time, they enjoy writing about complicated people in cars, collecting earrings, and lying down.
Giljoon Lee
Giljoon Lee, Staff Writer

Giljoon Lee is a sophomore and a staff writer for El Estoque. He serves as a danger to himself and his wallet whenever he enters a bookstore. He writes autofiction about automobiles, occasionally.

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