The Movie Waffler New Release Review - BLEEDING LOVE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - BLEEDING LOVE

New Release Review - BLEEDING LOVE
A father attempts to drive his estranged daughter to a rehab clinic following a near fatal overdose.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Emma Westenberg

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Clara McGregor, Kim Zimmer, Devyn McDowell, Sasha Alexander, Jake Weary, Vera Bulder

Bleeding Love poster

Ewan McGregor follows Ryan O'Neal's lead in appearing alongside his real life daughter, Clara McGregor, in a road movie. Bleeding Love sees the McGregors play an estranged father and daughter whose relationship has been blighted by their respective addiction issues. In real life Ewan and Clara have both had similar problems with substance abuse, and Ewan's divorce from Clara's mother put a strain on their relationship for a period of their lives. I'm not sure if this sort of method casting adds an extra layer of verisimilitude to director Emma Westenberg's film or acts as a hindrance, but it's certainly the most intriguing aspect of Bleeding Love.

Bleeding Love review

Having walked out on his family due to his alcoholism several years ago, Ewan's character, who is listed simply as "Father" (this growing trend of refusing to name characters is highly annoying for those of us who write about movies, so I'm just going to refer to the leads as Ewan and Clara), re-enters his 20-year-old daughter's life when she overdoses in the early morning. Ewan plans to drive Clara from San Diego to a rehab facility in New Mexico, but knowing she would never agree to such a thing, he feeds her a fake story about taking her to stay with a painter friend, where she might re-establish her childhood love of art.

As far as American road movies go, the trip undertaken by the protagonists here is relatively short, requiring only one overnight stay in the customary motel in the middle of nowhere. The setting of the American SouthWest, with its open expanses and never-ending roads speckled with armadillo corpses, gives the impression of a lengthier journey and certainly one more scenic than if the McGregors were driving from Bristol to Aberdeen. Unfortunately for Bleeding Love, this iconic setting only serves to draw comparisons with the great American road movies of the past, and Westerberg's film never does enough to earn a place in this particular canon.

Bleeding Love review

The roads of America have long proven a draw for filmmakers because putting two people in a car and having them stop at a new motel each night provides the perfect opportunity for character development, along with an ever-changing backdrop that keeps things visually interesting. The brevity of the journey here means the McGregors' respective arcs develop too quickly. The pouty Clara we meet in the opening scene, attempting to flee into the desert while her dad thinks she's emptying her bladder on the side of the road, is all too happily joining her father in a singalong to the Leona Lewis song that gives the film its title a mere handful of scenes later. The reconciliation between this estranged pair simply happens far too rapidly to be believable.

There's a lot of talk from Clara about how her father is a hypocrite for his condemnation of her lifestyle, given his own past. This is visually signified by some trite childhood flashbacks that see Westerberg use that now clichéd floaty camera style that directors employ when they want to let you know just how much they're inspired by Terrence Malick. Had Bleeding Love actually been made by Malick it would likely be a lot more ambiguous, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks regarding Ewan and Clara's past. In Westerberg's hands too much backstory is revealed through confrontational dialogue, and there are too few moments in which the camera lingers on Ewan and Clara's faces to allow us to process what they're feeling rather than having them directly speak their emotions.

Bleeding Love review

All that said, Bleeding Love is an easy watch. Ewan McGregor is one of the most affable performers working today, and his daughter seems to have inherited his natural charisma. The jury's still out on whether she's a talented actress or whether her performance benefits from her offscreen relationship with her co-star, but Clara certainly does enough here to warrant further roles. Even if the fictional Ewan and Clara never quite hit enough bumps in the narrative road the film sets them off upon, you can feel how much they're enjoying working together. That's as much of a burden as an asset though, as had the two actors not shared such close ties they may have better embraced the sort of friction that Bleeding Love requires to sell its story in more convincing fashion.

Bleeding Love
 is in UK cinemas from April 12th.

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