The Unicorn Scale: Love Lies Bleeding

By Luis Gallegos

June 30, 2024



Photo credit: Image/A24

Hey everyone! Today, I want to chat about a new movie from one of my all-time favorite studios. I've been a huge fan of A24 for ages, thanks to their awesome films like Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) and Midsommar (2019). Their storytelling, suspense, and complex characters always get me. So, when I heard about Love Lies Bleeding (2024), I knew I had to watch it and break it down for you all.

Directed by Rose Glass and co-written with Weronika Tofilska, this 2024 film is a neo-noir romantic thriller with a dark and twisted narrative. The nineties aesthetic, the outfits, and especially the opening scene with everyone working out in a gym made me feel right at home.

But before we continue, consider this your SPOILERS alert! From here on out, we'll dive into the twists and turns of the story. If this is your first time on a Unicorn Scale, check out the original article to learn how we grade. You can also find our entry about this film in our new Bi Media section.

Love Lies Bleeding is a queer love story intertwined with a dark family drama, making for an entertaining thriller. Set in a small town in New Mexico in 1989, the film follows the intense relationship between Louise "Lou" Langston (Kristen Stewart), who manages the gym for her father, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), who has deep ties to organized crime, and Jaqueline "Jackie" Cleaver (Katy O'Brian), an aspiring bodybuilder aiming to compete and win a bodybuilding tournament in Las Vegas.

Before Jackie met Lou, she had a one-night stand with Lou's brother-in-law, J.J. (Dave Franco), on the day J.J. arrived in town. J.J. helps Jackie get a job at a shooting range run by Lou's father, who also smuggles guns. This illegal activity has caught the FBI's attention, but so far, they've been unable to prove anything since witnesses who talk to them mysteriously disappear.

The story takes a turn when Jackie enters the town gym the next day, where Lou works. The two quickly become romantically involved, and Jackie moves into Lou's apartment. However, Jackie starts abusing the steroids that Lou gives her to help with her competition in Vegas, leading to paranoia and fits of rage.


Their relationship is thrown into chaos when Jackie, emotionally unstable and driven by steroid addiction, commits murder. As Lou helps Jackie cover up the crime, they become even more entangled in the dangerous world of organized crime. Their journey is one of survival, marked by betrayal, violence, and a desperate search for redemption.

What I Liked:

One of the things I liked about this movie was how Jackie embraced her bisexuality without it being a source of conflict. Jackie is proudly and openly bi. When questioned about having been with a man, she explains that it was before she met Lou. Tired of having to explain herself again and confident in her identity, she simply declares, “I like both.”

Jackie's character is realistic, flawed, and relatable. This is evident when she confronts Lou, who starts making prejudiced comments about Jackie's sex life and doubting her true intentions — something I’m also tired of experiencing.

Another aspect I liked is how Jackie steps into a protective role. J.J. is violent and has physically abused his sister and wife. Jackie, influenced by the steroids, reacts to defend Lou's sister, Beth, from her abusive husband, which ultimately leads to his unfortunate murder.


What I Didn’t Like:

When I finished watching Love Lies Bleeding, I found it to be a regular film, comical in some ways, but overall, it was poor in representation and filled with stereotypes.

The portrayal of bisexuality in this film made me reflect on how bi characters are often depicted in the media. Jackie's bisexuality is reduced to a moment of prejudice and a plot twist. This echoes other bi representations, such as Villanelle in Killing Eve (2018-2022), depicted as a bi character with a depraved and insatiable appetite for sex and violence. Villanelle is just one of many such examples from that time, reinforcing the harmful stereotype that bisexuality is inherently linked to immorality and instability. While it can sometimes be fun to have a problematic bi character, in this case, it seemed like an afterthought.

Plus, I felt there was some queerbaiting going on. Seeing Kristen Stewart, who’s bi in real life, made me expect her character to be bi too. It felt like a missed opportunity for real representation and was pretty disappointing for those of us looking for authentic bi characters.

The Rating:

Love Lies Bleeding is a solid queer love story with a strong Americana vibe and Rose Glass’s unique style. The film’s world is both familiar and refreshingly original. It’s as deeply romantic in its loyalty as it is wild in its hedonism.

When it comes to bi representation, we need more diverse and positive portrayals of bi characters in the media. It's time bi characters were more than just plot twists and stereotypes. Here's hoping for a future where our bi heroes have fewer mugshots and more gym selfies!

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