Tropic Sprockets / Love Lies Bleeding

By Ian Brockway

The propulsive director Rose Glass delivers her second feature “Love Lies Bleeding,” and it is just as provocative as her debut if not more so. Glass’s first film “Saint Maud” compelled the audience with religion and possession. Now, the director strikes again with her take on love, co-dependency, and competitive bodybuilding. [Showtimes at]

Lou (Kristen Stewart) is a reclusive gym cashier. One night she catches sight of Jackie (Katy O Brien), and Lou is smitten by her direct and independent nature. Noticing that Jackie is a bodybuilder, Lou offers Jackie steroids. At first, she declines, but she is quickly tempted by Lou’s warm and open personality. The two engage in very intimate kissing.

Unbeknownst to Jackie, she takes a job at Lou’s father’s gun range. We soon learn Lou’s father (Ed Harris) has a definite cruel streak.

A few scenes later, Lou notices that her sister Beth (Jena Malone) is being physically abused. Days later, Beth is savagely beaten. Lou vows revenge. Jackie gets the hint and after a steroid injection, beats the husband J.J. (Dave Franco) dead.

The disappearance of J.J. angers Lou’s father, who was an accomplice with J.J. in various murdering endeavors. What follows is a knotty tangled web of ambition, insecurity, and dependency.

Every role is first rate and while there is a fair amount of scenery chewing, this is another solid work from director Glass who uses both David Cronenberg’s and the Cohen Brothers’ vocabulary with new feminist flair. Katie O Brien in particular and Anna Baryshnikov (as Lou’s hyperactively jealous sometime lover) is especially outstanding. Even the usually recognizable Ed Harris is daring, allowing himself to be a kind of Dennis Hopper psycho character as seen through the lens of Diane Arbus.

Many tropes are touched upon here from lycanthropy and vampires to pornography. It is worth noting that though there are monsters here, the film never loses sight in its portrayal of Love as something wondrous and strange, capable of transforming existence and reality.

Just as “Saint Maud,” this is a film that is punchy and genre-bending. By touching on feelings of fragility and ferocity with an accent of the fairy tale, Rose Glass once again pushes rebellion to the fore with another eccentric and arresting delivery.

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