Review by Jonathan Berk
There are plenty of films that tackle estranged parent-child relationships. The concept is ripe for good storytelling and relatability. However, it can easily feel like an afterschool special if not handled with tact. Fortunately, director Emma Westenberg's film Bleeding Love delivers anxiety, heartache, regret, and some genuine feel-good moments as this real-life father-daughter road trip unfolds.
Ewan McGregor stars in Bleeding Love alongside his daughter, Clara, and both perform incredibly in this emotionally gripping story. It is clear early on that something has forced Clara to join her estranged father in his truck on their way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. No road trip movie would be complete without complications along the way. As they encounter interesting characters and a series of obstacles, the two are forced to confront the issues of their past.
There is a vague element of mystery in the movie, as it allows the audience to piece together exactly what the details of the relationship are. The clues are mostly revealed visually, with close-ups and little mannerisms, or with items in the tight quarters of the truck. Daughter asks Father (the characters don't have names) to pull over so she can pee. Not long after, she takes off running into the desert, with Father quick to follow. He asks what her plan was, to which she simply says she hadn't thought that far.
The film continues to provide insight in small doses while keeping us engaged with the charm both actors bring to the film. The film's title is revealed when Leona Lewis's song comes on the radio. We learn that this song has some sentimental meaning, and Father starts belting out the lyrics. As the scene plays out, we get our first real moment of levity, and some real goodness comes out of these scenes.
While much of the film takes place in the truck, Westenberg finds ways to get out of it. A few moments in the movie flash back to points before Father left Daughter. The image has a weird tint that reminds one of the idea of rose-colored glasses. The initial memories are positive ones, but we know there is some bitterness between these two — mostly coming from Daughter. As more is learned about the recent events and what has led them to reconnect on this road trip, we become more invested.
Bleeding Love relies on the audience to buy into the performances and the story. It lands the major beats and takes us on an emotional journey with these characters. If you connect with them, the movie works, but if you can't find something about either one to click with, you'll probably find the film a little uneventful. For me, it resonated, and I found the conclusion extremely satisfying.
Bleeding Love will be in theaters and on demand on February 16.