Bleeding Love Review

Ewan McGregor and Clara McGregor play father and daughter in an emotionally powerful drama about addiction.

PLOT: A gritty, emotional tale about healing familial wounds through re-connection. After a drastic incident in her life, a young woman embarks on an impromptu road trip with her estranged father. En-route to their destination of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the two are forced to confront the issues of their past that have led to their frail relationship, while encountering an eccentric array of characters along the way, in order to bring them closer together again.

REVIEW: Road trips and redemption tales have long been staples of filmmaking, big and small. Stories of connection between estranged family members, struggles with addiction, and stark looks at the landscape of rural America are nothing new, but that does not mean they are not ripe for new stories. Bleeding Love is a film rooted in the familiar tropes of decades worth of movies and yet it still manages to bring something unique to the mix. Led by the real father-daughter duo of Clara and Ewan McGregor, Bleeding Love delivers an emotionally powerful story that is accentuated by two strong actors rooting a parent-child dynamic from their own experience. Originally released at SXSW in 2023 under the title You Sing Loud I Sing Louder, Bleeding Love is a strong debut for actor Clara McGregor as well as filmmaker Emma Westenberg, Bleeding Love is a film that is stronger than I anticipated and hits many expected beats of similar films but does so with an authentic and emotional core.

Bleeding Love review

Bleeding Love opens with a father (Ewan McGregor) and his daughter (Clara McGregor) traversing the highways of the American Southwest. Driving in his weathered pickup truck, there is a palpable divide between the two. We quickly learn that the daughter recently survived an overdose. Her father, who has not been in her life since she was a child and now has a new family of his own, is taking his daughter away from her home in San Diego to try and get a fresh start. The father, who has dealt with his own personal demons, struggles to make a connection after so many years away from his child. There is a lot of resentment and unspoken emotion between the two, something that resonates almost as a third character in many scenes. Over several days, the father and daughter experience ups and downs as they attempt to reconnect with each other despite the massive weight of the daughter’s addiction.

For the first hour of Bleeding Love, I was reminded of countless road trip movies. The stark visual palette of the film recalls Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland by showcasing the realistic and weather-worn motels and homes across the desert landscape of the southwestern United States. Many of the supporting players weave in and out of single scenes including Kim Zimmer, Kristin K. Berg, Sale Taylor, and more. The most substantial supporting roles come from Jake Weary as Kip, a guy who flirts with the daughter at a child’s birthday party, and Vera Bulder as Tommy, a prostitute who helps the daughter out when she gets stung by something. Bulder, who developed the story for Bleeding Love with McGregor and screenwriter Ruby Caster, delivers a strong and memorable performance that stands out amongst the entire cast. These performances all feel authentic and natural and none stay longer than mere minutes as they add to the main narrative between the father and daughter. There are also flashbacks featuring Sasha Alexander as the mother as well as Devyn McDowell as the preteen daughter that accentuate the overall flow of the entire story.

The anchor to this story, surprisingly, is Clara McGregor. Ewan McGregor is a fantastic actor and beautifully plays a father who knows he has failed his child and yet does not know how to prove his love to her. The two McGregors, echoing the similar casting of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon, bring a strong connection from their real-life family dynamic into these characters. The natural chemistry between Clara and Ewan jumps off the screen and at times it does not feel like they are acting. I do not doubt that Clara’s strength as a performer in this role would have been as good with a different actor as her dad, but by casting Ewan, there is something intangible that elevates everything about this story. The tears feel real and the smiles and laughter on the road trip take on another layer of meaning that registered with me more deeply than I was expecting. Ewan McGregor is one of the best actors out there and Clara certainly has taken up her father’s mantle, but the two of them together are truly special.

Emma Westenberg, who has experience directing shorts, television, and music videos, makes an impressive feature debut here. The way she captures the natural landscape and unaltered look of the roadside establishments in Bleeding Love gives this story an anchored feel. She also manages to add a dreamlike and surreal quality to the flashbacks that still allow them to look solid but at once ethereal. Usually watching movies there are a couple of standout moments that resonate with me and Bleeding Love has at least five. Screenwriter Ruby Caster’s story mines so much familiar territory including AA meetings, addicts sneaking drugs, combative fights between loved ones, a hooker with a heart of gold, and all of the beats of road trip movies and redemption tales. There are no real surprises in this story but that does not discredit the quality of this film. At a minimum, Bleeding Love could have been a curiosity that Clara McGregor and her dad could have shared as a memory of that time they worked together, but there is more than enough in this tale that allows it to stand on its own as a well-acted and well-made film.

Bleeding Love review

Bleeding Love will draw people in who are curious to see if this is a nepo-baby project or at the very least if they are curious to see if Ewan McGregor’s daughter has anything close to his talent. I am happy to say that this is a good movie with excellent performances across the board. It does not recreate the genre nor did it set out to do so. This is a beautiful film about a broken relationship that holds hope for anyone who has a rift with a loved one. The McGregors prove here that Ewan remains one of the best talents out there and that Clara is not far behind. I enjoyed following this father and daughter on their journey and appreciate the way this story unfolds. Bleeding Love, like the Leona Lewis song that shares its title, will instantly be enjoyable the moment you start it.

7
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Source: JoBlo.com

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.