This Love Lies Bleeding article contains spoilers.

In Love Lies Bleeding, A24’s new neo-noir thriller from director/co-writer Rose Glass (Saint Maud), Kristen Stewart (Spencer) and Katy O’Brian (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) play Lou and Jackie, two women who fall frantically in love with each other after meeting at the ramshackle gym that Lou manages in a small, dying New Mexico town circa 1989.

Jackie is a bodybuilder, on her way to Las Vegas for a national competition, who uses her formidable physique to both intimidate men and get what she needs from them; Lou is the daughter of the gym’s owner, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), a local crime lord who also runs illegal guns and has a pervasive grip on both the town and his daughter. Although Lou literally knows where her father has buried the bodies that are part of his trade, she yearns to escape his reach and the town itself, but is held back by her need to protect her sister Beth (Jena Malone), who is married to a virulent serial abuser named JJ (Dave Franco).

After JJ’s latest attack leaves Beth gravely injured and disfigured, Jackie – in a bout of unencumbered rage fueled by both steroids and her love for Lou – brutally murders JJ. Desperate to protect Jackie – whose mind and common sense are clouded by the performance drugs she’s taking – Lou disposes of JJ’s body by throwing him in the trunk of his car and sending the car to a fiery end at the bottom of the canyon where Lou Sr. has also consigned his enemies. The only possible witness is Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), a dissolute local addict who wants Lou and is jealous of her relationship with Jackie.

For those wondering how it all plays out, here’s a breakdown of what happened at the end of Love Lies Bleeding and what it all means for our central duo.

A father’s twisted idea of love

As Love Lies Bleeding barrels into its third act, the cunning Lou Sr. soon realizes that his daughter has disposed of JJ and, in his own twisted way, wants to protect her from being caught. But things are complicated when Jackie takes off for the bodybuilding competition after Lou warns her to lay low. Although she makes it to the stage, Jackie is overcome by the effect of the steroids, vomiting and beating up one of the other contestants – which gives Lou Sr. an opportunity to bail her out and corral her.

Knowing from Jackie that Daisy saw Lou driving JJ’s car, with Jackie behind her in Lou’s pickup truck, Lou Sr. works out a plan in which Jackie will both get rid of Daisy and take the fall for the crimes. Jackie shoots Daisy in Lou’s apartment, but Lou threatens to reveal her father’s secrets to the police if he implicates or kills Jackie. So Lou sends a corrupt police officer to kill his own daughter instead, although the cop ends up dead on Lou’s floor as well.

With Jackie now held hostage in Lou Sr.’s mansion, Lou heads there to release her lover and confront her father once and for all. But as Lou Sr. gets the advantage, shooting his daughter in the leg and starting to strangle her, Jackie – who envisions herself in her steroid-addled mind as a Hulk-like creature whose muscles literally expand and burst out under her skin – comes to the rescue. For Lou’s part, she sees Jackie as a literal 50-foot woman – a fierce giant who effortlessly plucks Lou Sr. off his daughter and hurls him to the ground, where Lou doesn’t kill him but leaves him tied up as the police arrive.

In the final scene, Lou and Jackie head west in Lou’s pickup, planning to dispose along the way of the dead body of Daisy, which is in the bed of the truck. But Daisy is still alive, requiring Lou to pull over and finish her off – doing it all for love, yet still ruthless enough (like her father) to do what is necessary to protect the one she now cares for the most.

Where desire meets obsession

Love Lies Bleeding is shot like a lurid pulp novel – all grimy interiors and dusty, bleak exteriors, with most of the movie taking place at night and lit by the harsh glow of neon signs. But it’s also lit up by the electricity between Lou and Jackie, a spark that feels so real and almost so pure that it threatens to light everything else around it on fire.

And in the end, it just about does that. Love Lies Bleeding is about desire and obsession and how the two can meet in ways that are both exhilarating and unhealthy. Lou and Jackie see each other as a means to escape the dreariness of their own lives, with Lou literally envisioning Jackie as a giantess capable of crushing men to pulp in her fist. Jackie sees herself, as noted above, like a superhero capable of such physical transformation. They see each other as beautiful.

But their desire and yearning – which also includes Jackie’s yearning to win that bodybuilding competition at any cost, even if it means taking dangerous drugs – push them into the realm of obsession, which leads inexorably to violence. Jackie’s murder of JJ is one of the more sickening acts of violence we’ve seen recently (and Glass doesn’t shy away from showing us the aftermath), but it feels earned: vengeance against him for what he’s done to his own wife and against every man that has either tried to fuck Jackie or succeeded at it, sometimes on a purely transactional basis.

Yet that rage consumes Jackie once it’s unleashed, destroying whatever chance she had at the bodybuilding contest and ultimately nearly turning her into a killing machine for Lou Sr. It’s only Lou’s love that brings her back down to Earth. Lou, meanwhile, puts everything on the line to save Jackie, pushing her awful father to the point of trying to kill his own daughter even as she herself stashes more bodies in her pickup and her apartment like unspeakable Christmas presents.

Love Lies Bleeding is filled with some of the bleakest aspects of humanity: toxic, violent men, sociopathic parents, needy, clinging lovers, and women so battered by life that the battering feels as routine as getting up in the morning. Yet glowing like bright red neon in the darkness is love, and the possibility of a better life through that love. As Lou and Jackie ride off into an unknowable future, free of their pasts but still throwing corpses over the side, you can’t help but cheer them on.

Love Lies Bleeding is in theaters now.

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