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Bleeding Love – Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review

Bleeding Love – Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review

There are some films that are enhanced by their stunt casting. Then there are the films that would have no reason to exist without it.

Bleeding Love sees real life father-daughter duo Ewan and Clara McGregor play an unnamed father and daughter on a road trip through the American Southwest. She is an addict who recently overdosed, and thinks this trip is just an attempt from her estranged father to reconnect. In reality, at the other end of the journey, he’s planning to deposit her in a rehab facility.

As tends to be the case with these road trip movies, along the way, the two meet a whole host of colourful characters; only one of these encounters is enjoyable. A running joke of the film is how often the daughter needs to go to relieve herself, which necessitates a lot of squatting by the side of the road – on one of these occasions, she’s bitten in an intimate area by… something. Considering the possibilities – snakes, spiders, scorpions! – both father and daughter are frantic, but no pharmacies are open. Outside of a closed one, the father runs into a sex worker. Although he rebuffs her advances, he realises that she may be more knowledgeable at what kind of bite it is and how worried they need to be, and that his daughter would most definitely be more comfortable showing that area to another woman, and so he asks her to take a look.

She does, and the subsequent scene is funny and endearing. For a while at least. Because as is the case with any time this film threatens to be organically charming or emotional, it all devolves into unnecessary, over-stylised whimsy. After the father and daughter say goodbye to the sex worker – who’s told them of her Broadway aspirations – they drive past whilst she starts on an impromptu slow motion dance routine on the side of the road, as glitter rains down upon her head. Sigh.

This sort of thing happens over and over again. Arguments between father and daughter, of which there are many, are punctuated by an aggravating deluge of whip pans. The insistence on using hand-held camera at every opportunity is often genuinely nauseating (perhaps an attempt to add dimensionality by giving us travel sickness?), and frequently undercuts big emotional beats. Even the film’s centrepiece, where father and daughter are united by a singalong when Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love comes on the radio, is ruined by the cheesy use of slow-mo.

It’s not that Bleeding Love would have been a masterpiece without this persistent over-direction. Both McGregors are solid, but the screenplay never asks them to go beyond cliché. And it’s all too reliant on our extra-textual knowledge of their relationship, with the daughter’s unhappiness with her father’s new family clearly meant to recall the Mary Elizabeth Winstead situation.

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Rather than their real-life relationship adding to the movie, it seems more like an act of casting laziness; if this film was exactly the same in every way accept the two actors in the leading roles, it’s hard to imagine it would have ever been funded.


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