Ever since Rose Glass set cinemas alight in 2019 with her feature directorial debut, Saint Maud, there has been great excitement for what is next and Love Lies Bleeding does not disappoint.

It is bold, brutal and in some parts ridiculous, but even those elements work well with the grounded world Glass has created. Nothing is approached with a half-measure – especially the violence and sex.

Opening the 20th edition of the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF), it comes as no surprise it sold out speedy-quick in what is its UK premiere.

This ’80s romance-thriller doesn’t really feel like your typical movie set in that decade. This is a dark, almost bleak, setting of a small town in Albuquerque. You aren’t battling against an avalanche of the usual cliché styles, colour, sounds and fashion of the era.

It’s grounded with its own style and stays clear of tropes. If it wasn’t for subtle references to its time it could easily be set in the present day.

The sensational Kristen Stewart yet again delivers a performance with real depth as gym manager “Lou” who falls for Katy O’Brian’s “Jackie” – a bodybuilder stopping by the town in prep for a Las Vegas competition.

O’Brian’s screen presence goes far beyond the physicality of her character. There is a real tragedy and vulnerability to this character. And she navigates these complexities masterfully with ease.

The romance and chemistry between Stewart and O’Brian is raw and unflinching. It feels the writing duo of Rose Glass and Weronika Tofilska – who worked together on the 2015 short A Moment of Horror – are uncompromising.

You see this approach immediately in the sex scenes that are passionate, real but yet done in a stylistic way. Couple that with the violence that is gasp-inducing that you are not quite prepared for in its realism and brutality.

Amongst all of this is a real tenderness in the love between these two characters – in part down to the writing but, more crucially, due to Stewart and O’Brian’s performances.

We have undercurrents of family trauma and a deep rooted crime syndicate with Ed Harris’ “Lou Sr” at the heart of it. He looks like Tom Noonan’s Ripper in Last Action Hero, minus the axe but just as scary looking.

Dave Franco also stars, and plays sleazy and detestable very well alongside Jena Malone who makes the most of the limited time she has.

By no means is this a movie that takes itself too seriously with some ballsy, out there, sequences that should jeopardise the movie – but don’t quite, as you embrace it and go along with it. A recurrence of The Incredible Hulk-like moments, though, feel unnecessary.  It comes off gimmicky, almost, and detracts from scenes. It’s a pity especially in light of the great performance from O’Brian.   

What is certainly not missing, and used carefully throughout, is the comedy. It pops up as unexpectedly as some of the violence and does well to break the tension.

When you have big stars onboard who are invested in your vision it shows. This is an ambitious film that does not shy away from much, with two leading actors who have no qualms about diving head first into the brutal, brilliant world created by Rose Glass and Weronika Tofilska.