A father and daughter stand in front of a truck together in Bleeding Love.

Film Review: Bleeding Love

Film Reviews

Bleeding Love
Director: Emma Westenberg

Sobini Films and Killer Films
In Theaters and Video On Demand: 02.16

Whether it’s Henry and Jane Fonda teaming up for On Golden Pond in 1981 or Adam Sandler starring with his daughter Sunny in You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah in 2023, movie stars sharing the screen with their offspring is a time-honored tradition. Ewan McGregor and his daughter Clara gave it a try in Bleeding Love, a road trip movie where the intended destination is a viable career for Clara.

The McGregors play a middle-aged Father” and his estranged 20-year old Daughter–they are never identified by name in the film, and only listed by these designations in the credits—in a truck headed toward Sante Fe. They haven’t really been a part of each other’s lives for more than a decade, though they do have one thing in common: addiction. After Daughter nearly dies from a drug overdose, this now-sober absentee Father is determined to atone for his mistakes, reconnect with her and get her the help that she needs. There is little to do in the car but talk, which means plenty of arguing, reminiscing and a lot of awkward silence. The occasional stop gives them a chance to meet colorful characters ranging from a gun-toting tow truck driver (Kim Zimmer, Body Heat) and her amateur rapper son (Jake Weary, It Follows, Zombeavers), to a sex worker (Vera Bulder, About That Life) who looks for clients in a Walgreens parking and dreams of Broadway stardom. As the miles go by, the walls between Father and Daughter start to come down, and despite the time that has passed and the mistakes they’ve made, there might be a chance at reconnection.

Bleeding Love is journey toward reconciliation, and it’s an uneven ride that’s barely smooth and steady enough to get us there, when it’s content to be a two-person story. The younger McGregor conceived the story along with Bulder, who co-produced the film, and it plays very much like the two struggling actresses came up with the kernel of an idea for a film that would give them each a showcase and used a very strong connection to get it made. The premise itself isn’t bad, and Westenberg’s direction is on course. It’s the screenplay by Ruby Caster (Say Hi After You Die) that doesn’t know where it’s headed and it never stops to ask for directions. The side vignettes all play like they were hastily conceived to work in a role for a friend and while Bulder’s appearance is far and away the best among them, even her character falls apart as she tries too hard to create a grand exit. The conceit of refusing to give the lead characters names starts to feel pretentious when we notice that Father is actively avoiding referring to his new family by names; when we see his phone ring with a call from his wife and the name comes up as “My Love,” it’s hard not to groan.

The elder McGregor brings a hefty sense of heart and gravity along with his star power. The choice to let him speak with own brogue rather than burden the performance with another unconvincing attempt at an American accent is one of the best choices made in the film. The younger McGregor may not prove herself to be a superstar in the making, but her performance is solid enough and the natural chemistry between Father and Daughter gives us enough genuine moments to make the film enjoyable. When the iciness between them melts long enough for a spontaneous singalong to the Leona Lewis song Bleeding Love, the magical moment is interrupted by a phone call from Father’s new wife and young son. As Father fawns over the boy, the awkwardness and resentment comes rushing back, beautifully captured in Clara’s facial expressions. Just a few more moments of that caliber would have resulted in a rave review from me.

On the whole, Bleeding Love is middle of the road movie that is better suited to a $6.99 rental at home than a trip to the theater. It’s a modest roadside attraction on the way to peak movie season. Stop if you must. Otherwise, all we can do is sit and wait patiently. Either way, the words “Are we there yet?” are likely to be uttered more than once. –Patrick Gibbs 

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