Review: ‘Bleeding Love’

Ewan McGregor Helps Launch His Daughter Clara's Career With A Safe Father/Daugher Road Trip Drama

Not that I’m a parent or anything, but if I was, the thing I would love about it most is passing my knowledge, hobbies, etc. to my children. My greatest fear? To also pass along my demons. The things that have held me back must not also hinder the next generation, for they must be better than me. In Bleeding Love, Emma Westenberg’s directorial debut, Ewan McGregor stars opposite his real-life daughter Clara McGregor in a safe road trip drama in which an estranged father sees a little too much of himself in his child, and the realization is devastating.

McGregor plays the unnamed father, with Clara as his unnamed daughter. In the beginning, we see her fidgeting uncomfortably in the passenger seat of his beat up old pickup truck. They’re on a long road to some mysterious destination, and the journey through the American southwest is filled with tension. For good reason, as he was largely absent from her life, but has reemerged in the aftermath of her suffering a drug overdose. He’s moved past his own demons, or at least he’s taken the steps. And now he wants the same for her, but she’s not quite there yet. The animosity is palpable. So is her need for alcohol, opioids, and anything she can get her hands on. She’s a total mess, but so is her father who is clearly unequipped for all of this drama.

However, one shouldn’t think Bleeding Love is all anger and angst. While it’s clear that seeing his daughter struggle is like staring into a mirror, he attempts to inject some light and humor into her life because knows it’s what helped him. In between fights, they connect over shared songs, singing together wildly at the top of their lungs during the long drive. These moments shared between father and daughter feel genuine and hopeful.

The film takes more than its share of diversions, some more beneficial than others to the overall narrative. A cast of quirky characters emerges, like a trucker and gun nut who picks them up and takes them to her nephew’s birthday party. Father and daughter find they have at least some things in common as they give the side-eye to the nephew, a child, being given a loaded rifle as a present. But it’s also here that daughter slips back into old habits, running into someone who shares her addictions. These meandering subplots add little and derail any momentum built up by Ewan and Clara, who share almost every scene together.

Westenberg finds the greatest emotional purchase in the shared moments between Ewan and Clara. It’s not always a given that having family members work together will produce instant chemistry. Let’s be honest, some Hollywood family trees produce rotten apples. But that’s not the case here. This is clearly a film meant to help launch Clara’s career, and that’s fine. She proves capable of holding her own with Ewan, but he’s a natural and she’s still working at it. The script by Ruby Caster paints a thin sketch of their characters, and shirks away anytime the film threatens to get too deep into their addiction woes, but the McGregors elevate the material with sincere, tough performances as flawed people. Father is remorseful about his past but unapologetic about it, and she has no reason to trust the help of this man who abandoned her in the first place.

Bleeding Love follows a father and daughter on a difficult journey of reconnection. But there’s an entire legacy of pain between them, and the film, while hopeful, is realistic about the chances of a happy ending. While the script isn’t ideal, Ewan has done Clara a solid with a film that doesn’t ask for much, and allows them to create freely together without much outside pressure. Ewan is doing what his character failed to do, by being there for his daughter and preparing her to handle the future. She’s going to be a better actress for it, and will be in much better movies.

Bleeding Love is available in select theaters and VOD now.

Bleeding Love
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-bleeding-loveNot that I'm a parent or anything, but if I was, the thing I would love about it most is passing my knowledge, hobbies, etc. to my children. My greatest fear? To also pass along my demons. The things that have held me back...