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What does 'let it bleed' mean in the following sentence?

Though the actors give their all, notably Stellan Skarsgård as the brother of the missing Harriet and Joely Richardson as an estranged relative, the film hangs back when you want it to come out swinging. Only Mara lets it bleed. Her defensive, bruised-animal performance inexorably draws you in.

Is it common enough in daily conversation or English texts? I have seen it before, but it also in a film review (and The Rolling Stones album). Could you give me another example of its use in a sentence? If possible, the origin of the phrase would be nice too.

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I don't think this figurative let it bleed has any significant currency or clear-cut meaning. If it weren't for the Stones album, OP's author would probably never have used those words. And I think the album title never really meant anything anyway - it was just by way of quirky contrast to the Beatles Let It Be, that was being produced around the same time. – FumbleFingers Dec 29 '11 at 23:40

It means that only Mara can perform so passionately that it draws everyone's attention. "The team let it bleed to victory." meaning the team played so passionately that they won.

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I think there might be an oblique reference to the idiom wear your heart on your sleeve. – Brett Reynolds Dec 30 '11 at 12:23
    
Yes u r right :) – Apoorva Jan 3 '12 at 5:00

Let it bleed is the term for IV drug users registering a vein... because you have to let it bleed into the syringe before you inject.

Any other meaning is purely a semantical coincidence.

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A very interesting answer—but one that would benefit from a link to the phrase being used in the way you describe, and even more from a link to a reference work that corroborates your interpretation. "Let it bleed" in the literal sense of "don't stanch the bleeding" goes back many decades. See, e.g., this example from "Heather Mixture" in Blackwood's Magazine (February 1922). – Sven Yargs Jul 13 '15 at 2:58

I worked in Louisiana (Acadiana area) in my early twenties. It was a blue collar job, and it was the first time I ever heard the phrase "Let it bleed" used in conversation. I asked what it meant, and one of the guys explained that it was another way of saying, "Leave it alone." Basically, if you cut your finger, you let it bleed a little so the wound will scab. If it's not worth worrying about, if the metaphorical 'wound' is trivial, you let it bleed, or you leave it alone. That's the only place I've ever heard that term, but, then again, southwest Louisiana is a very different place. In this case, the reviewer seems to be saying Mara's performance is more subdued. Instead of 'coming out swinging', she hangs back, lets it bleed a little, thus drawing the audience in.

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protected by Rathony May 29 at 13:25

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