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Release Date: 04/12/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama.

Studio: ICON Film Distribution.

"A father takes his estranged daughter on a road trip in an effort to get her out of trouble. Along the way they meet all types of strangers, as their strained relationship is put to the test." 


In the opening scene of Bleeding Love, a 20-something girl asks her father to pull over so she can pee. They stop in the middle of nowhere, and she gets out and does her business, and then takes off running into the dusty wasteland. He springs from the car and runs after her, and catches up after a few hundred yards, breathless, and they stand together awkwardly. Quick cut, and she’s smoking a cigarette and grinning devilishly in the passenger seat, while dad looks down the road with worry in his eyes. 


It's the kind of filmmaking approach that says so much with so little. No forced exposition dumps, just two minutes of action that gets straight to the nature of the relationship. 


This is a father-daughter movie in perhaps the truest sense ever seen on screen. Ewan McGregor players “Father.” His real-life daughter, Clara McGregor, plays “Daughter.” Both have producer credits, and Clara gets a story-by nod. 


Father and Daughter are on the road after she overdosed and he’s supposedly taking her on a trip to see an old friend. Each time they stop, Daughter steals, sneaks booze or pills, tries to escape, or just generally louts about. She’s an artist and a college dropout. He runs a landscaping business and is a recovering addict who, at some point, became estranged from his family and started a new one. 


The Great American Southwest is both backdrop and creepy, colorful costar. While Father is desperately trying to care for his kid and get her somewhere safe, all manner of people and places along their path seem desperate to derail any chance at recovery and reconciliation. 


Tonally, the film pulls from hazy indie dramas like Drugstore Cowboy and Trainspotting, with some of the surreal touches of the latter showing up in flashbacks and scenes of drug use. But it’s also equal parts straight-forward road movie.


Cinematographer Christopher Ripley, a veteran music video director, has a wonderful eye for color and light that makes the characters move and glow and captivate. And editor Autumn Dea has cut together a film that not only moves well, but also knows how to pull levity from a transition, or ramp up the drama to a boiling point.


Ewan McGregor, by now, is dependably great in almost everything he’s in, but Clara McGregor is a welcome surprise as a girl with a lot of weight and trouble on her shoulders at such a young age. She has a real knack for acting in a naturalistic way and staying in the moment – much like her father – and together they add a wonderful depth and chemistry to the narrative. 


The film also benefits from Ruby Caster’s lean, affecting script that manages to be gripping without beating the audience over the head. Likewise, Emma Westenberg’s nuanced direction has every camera movement echo with meaning. The lens trembles and vibrates around drugs and alcohol, and then pulls back to perfectly frame the fractious tension between a parent and a struggling child. Both Caster and Westenberg make their feature debuts.


Bleeding Love, at its core, is a soulful, authentic, and assured film about addiction and family. It’s also a showcase for new and emerging talent both in front of and behind the lens. 


It’s a full-circle story about the good and the bad that parents pass off onto their children, and the final payoff note is just pitch perfect. Be prepared to cry and be moved, and to fall in love with one of the first great indie films of 2024.


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