Red light filling up the desert landscape, sweat dripping down a flexed bicep, smoke billowing over the canyons—these are some of the images that have stuck with me since seeing Love Lies Bleeding. The follow-up to director Rose Glass’s 2019 feature debut Saint Maud is full of indelible imagery punctuating its pulpy, violent, ultra-hot story, and cements Glass’s singular vision. Love Lies Bleeding follows Lou (Kristen Stewart), a solitary gym manager who isn’t interested in the world beyond her workplace and apartment. Then Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a bodybuilder, comes into town, walks into Lou’s gym, and sets her world on fire. Together, the pair will head down a twisty, bloody path that never slows down.
Desire is at the heart of this love story, radiating off the screen whenever Lou and Jackie are together. This desire wouldn’t be as palpable without the performances of Stewart and O’Brian, who smolder together on screen and sometimes even explode. The performances from the entire cast make Love Lies Bleeding a compelling, adrenaline-soaked watch (not to be missed: Ed Harris as Lou’s menacing father, wreaking havoc in a mullet-style wig).
This is a film that refuses to sand down its edges or take the most palatable way out, and it’s all the better for it. Letterboxd members agree. “I feel like I need a baptism after watching this. Absolutely stunning and destructive,” writes Philip, while Corrin puts it simply: “Eroticism, violence, heart, killing for love. All my favorite things.” Come for the promise of ’80s-tinged pulp, and stay for the bloody, messy ride. You won’t have to wait long, as A24 releases Love Lies Bleeding in US theaters on March 8. AM