‘Love Lies Bleeding’ nearly sticks the landing

‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is a family drama, love story and crime thriller starring Kristen Stewart as Lou and Katy O’Brian as Jackie. The two begin a relationship that becomes increasingly dangerous and explosive for each of them and those around them. // Photo courtesy of IMDb

In less than two hours, “Love Lies Bleeding” manages to tell a love story, a family drama and a crime thriller, while also losing the entirety of all three plots in the last 10 minutes of its runtime.

The story opens like almost every queer horror or A24 film does: in a small town with odd lore that no one seems willing to acknowledge but looms heavily over the community. Lou, who is played by the ever-dynamic Kristen Stewart, is a shy gym manager who spends her time dealing steroids and managing equipment. The audience is quickly introduced to the tedium of her life; she’s cleaning out filthy bathrooms, dodging the ever persistent come-ons from her friend and helping her sister while avoiding what seems to be a very illegal past with her father.

However, as is par for the course, everything changes when a new girl comes into town. Jackie (Katy O’Brian, “The Mandalorian”) explodes onto the screen and into Lou’s life, and immediately both girls hit it off. Within their first day of meeting, the girls have moved in together and Lou is supplying Jackie with steroids — the hallmarks of any good, fulfilling relationship.

Jackie and Lou’s relationship is the focal point of the story. The characters’ drastically different personalities and desires serve to make their relationship ever-changing and taut with tension. Lou is resigned to staying in her small town, taking care of her sister, while Jackie is constantly dreaming of bigger, better things — namely a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. The accelerated pace of the relationship and the power they hold over each other, Lou with her ability to cut off Jackie from drugs and Jackie with her actual physical power over Lou, seem ready to explode.

Their relationship also serves as an interesting analysis of how abuse can look in queer relationships. Throughout the movie, Lou’s sister and her husband have a progressively more abusive relationship — starting with hints that maybe he’s just an angry person to Lou’s sister nearly dying because of the
brunt of the abuse. Lou constantly laments how her sister can continue to stay in what she considers a cut-and-dry, right-or-wrong situation. However, when she finds herself in a similar position with Jackie, she is quick to make excuses and take Jackie back.

Their love is codependent, bloody and desperate. They are unable to let each other go, even if it’s in their best interest, and this is the driving force of the movie. Jackie and Lou constantly make progressively more dangerous and fatal mistakes in their quest to make the other happy, leaving a wake of destruction along the way.

With the amount of dead bodies the two produced, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary. Did the cops really not find any fingerprints on any of the murder weapons? Did no one see them murder a person in broad daylight? Did the FBI not see the body quite literally stashed behind a couch?

The movie never sells itself as a realistic film. With its fantastical shots and outrageous plot, the movie falls closer to a pulpy, erotic thriller than a film that takes itself seriously. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and “Love Lies Bleeding” is in good company with other films like “Bottoms” in the genre. 

However, in the last 10 minutes of the film, it suddenly feels like it’s a different movie. There’s a difference between bending reality and breaking it, and that’s exactly what the movie does. Ideas that the audience had of what was real or nightmare suddenly become questionable as the film takes a sharp turn into magical realism with no indication that this was where it was going.

Some may find the ending a charming addition, a fitting climax of the absurdity and gore in the movie, but for others, it will be a disappointing ending of what could’ve been an almost perfect movie.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the rest of the movie is worth the watch. Even if the plot seems to lose itself, Stewart and O’Brian’s acting, the intense soundtrack and the creative filming is enough to more than make up for that ending.