Bleeding Love (2023)

An estranged father and daughter gradually reconnect during a cross-country journey following her overdose in director Emma Westenberg’s feature debut Bleeding Love.

You are like me, but better

by Chris Drew

Bleeding Love

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

We meet unnamed father (Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!) and daughter (Clara McGregor, Cicada) awkwardly sitting in silence as he drives them across country.

During a toilet stop she suddenly sprints off into the wilderness causing him to give chase and asking what her plan was. We learn they are on a 14-hour drive to Santa Fe as he explains they are heading to see an artist friend of his which he hopes might inspire them to paint again.

They are clearly not close, he’s surprised to learn that she is vegan, and makes a joke about how animals are used to bring drugs into the country, the first hint of the real situation at hand.

It is revealed he has collected her after she overdosed 12 hours earlier, and he also wants to use the journey to get to know her, which she often rebuffs with the occasional hurtful comment he seemingly shrugs off.

During a stop at an AA meeting, he gives an impassioned speech about how alcohol addiction has impacted his life as his daughter watches on and the complexity of their relationship becomes clearer.

Her occasional sun-soaked childhood flashbacks give a glimpse into their earlier life, and we gradually question his sobriety in these vignettes.

The pair share some bonding moments: sharing the joy of communal singing to the eponymous ‘Bleeding Love’, and an evening swim when they eventually reach their motel.

We find out he has a new wife – and young son – who becomes crucial to the plot by inadvertently revealing on the phone that the real destination of the trip is to a rehab facility.

The daughter’s reaction to this discovery – perhaps the greatest moment of tension in the film – is surprisingly underplayed, but she nonetheless leaves after the inevitable row.

She hitchhikes from the motel and the film then takes on a parental search of an addict child reminiscent of 2018’s Ben Is Back.

She gets high and is found by a family lying on the side of the road. Father and daughter are reunited, and the film ends on a hopeful healing note, positive about her future and their relationship.

The two leads as real-life father and daughter have an obvious connection and play off each other effectively. The younger McGregor co-wrote the story, and has a producer credit, and her character’s styling gives more than a hint of Lady Gaga’s Ally in A Star Is Born while her father is on reliable form.

Westenberg’s film plays down the middle as a straightforward low-key drama, and could do with a few more grace notes, but nevertheless makes for a relatively engaging watch for fans of independent cinema.

Bleeding Love is released in UK cinemas on 12 April 2024.

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