The provocative new thriller “Love Lies Bleeding” from director Rose Glass had its world premiere Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, garnering shocked reactions and rave reviews for its graphic lesbian sex scenes starring Kristen Stewart.
“Love Lies Bleeding” follows Stewart’s character, Lola, as she embarks on an intensely sexual romance with a female bodybuilder, Paradise (Katy O’Brian), whom she meets at the gym. What starts out as a steamy fling turns darker as Lola becomes obsessed with Paradise.
The film features several explicit sex scenes between Stewart and O’Brian that are already generating lots of buzz. Stewart herself has hyped up the movie’s boundary-pushing intimate scenes, saying they will “shock people.”
Reactions from Premiere
Critics and audiences at Sundance had intense reactions to the film’s graphic depictions of sex. Many were left speechless by the sex scenes, with Stewart’s co-star Jena Malone saying the premiere crowd was “quaking in their boots.” Others praised the scenes as “sensual and hypnotic.”
The Daily Beast called the film an “erotic lesbian thriller” that will surely be “one of the most talked-about films” emerging from Sundance this year.
While reactions focused heavily on the sex, critics also had overall high praise for the film’s direction and performances.
What Critics are Saying
|Quotes from Reviews
|The Hollywood Reporter
|“An alluringly strange erotic thriller…subtly effective in getting under the skin.”
|“Rose Glass’ follow up to Saint Maud has a bewitching pull all its own with its fusion of desire and dread.”
|“A menacing erotic thriller…Stewart is killer.”
|“Ultra-sexy psycho drama…will leave you questioning the line between passion and possession.”
Stewart’s Performance Lauded
In particular, critics hailed Stewart’s performance as one of her career best. Her all-in commitment to the physical and psychological demands of the complex role is already sparking Oscar buzz.
Daniel Fienberg at The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Stewart throws herself body and soul into Glass’ provocative, outrageous vision, crafting a character study of unraveling obsession that reveals new disturbing surprises all the way through the closing credits.”
What’s Next for the Film?
With glowing reviews out of Sundance and A-list talent attached, “Love Lies Bleeding” seems poised to make a major splash on the 2023 festival circuit and draw significant attention when it lands in theaters later this year.
Distribution Deal Likely
Industry watchers fully expect the film to score a lucrative distribution deal out of Sundance. Major studios with specialty divisions like A24 and Neon will likely bid aggressively for the right to release the buzzy title. The amount of sex and violence could limit its commercial prospects, but its transgender love story angle gives it marketing potential amid calls for more LGBTQ representation on screen.
The Provocative Vision of Rose Glass
For director Rose Glass, “Love Lies Bleeding” represents her highly anticipated second feature after her critically acclaimed 2019 debut “Saint Maud.” That film also dealt with themes of obsession and sexuality centered around a female lead.
Glass is cementing herself as an exciting new directorial voice pushing boundaries with the body and desire. She imbues her films with an intoxicating, trance-like quality accented by striking visuals and practical effects.
With two challenging, controversial films under her belt, Glass seems poised to continue making waves in independent film for her unflinching depictions of complex women.
On Her Artistic Approach
In an interview at Sundance, Glass explained her artistic approach:
“I’m interested in characters who have an uncompromising single-mindedness, who will pursue what they desire past the bounds of what’s considered normal…I want to plunge the audience into the subjective experience of these women as they negotiate their own repression and agency.”
Clearly with “Love Lies Bleeding,” Glass has once again immersed viewers in the consuming passions of her protagonist with palpable and unsettling results.
Stewart’s Boundary-Pushing Ambitions
Beyond the hyperbolic reactions to the sex scenes, “Love Lies Bleeding” represents an important transition point in Kristen Stewart’s acclaimed acting career.
Stewart spent much of the last decade trying to shed the “Twilight girl” label by working with respected auteurs in independent films like “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper.”
With “Love Lies Bleeding,” the 33-year old star makes good on her stated desire to take on more audacious roles that challenge gender norms.
Commitment to Challenging Material
In a recent interview with the LA Times, Stewart spoke of her commitment to projects like “Love Lies Bleeding” that push boundaries:
“I think it’s important to shake things up and shock people out of complacency…I don’t want to do anything unless it feels scary and relevant enough to warrant rocking the boat.”
Clearly with her portrayal of the dangerously unstable Lola, Stewart has embraced something well outside her comfort zone. And if her towering performance lives up to the hype, bigger things still likely await one of the most compelling actresses working today.
With its shocking sex scenes and psychosexual drama, “Love Lies Bleeding” announces itself as a fearlessly provocative vision from Rose Glass featuring a shattering lead turn by Kristen Stewart. Their creative union looks to be one of the most talked-about pairings emerging out of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Where the film heads after its rapturous premiere screening will be fascinating to follow, but it seems sure to leave a lasting impact.
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