The Director of Love Lies Bleeding Weighs In On Its Trippy Ending

The A24 thriller isn’t afraid to get weird — or to confront our notions of love.

Katy O'Brian and Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding
Anna Kooris/A24
The Inverse Interview

The end of Rose Glass’ Love Lies Bleeding is slightly difficult to pin down. The film mixes elements of neo-noir with the world of competitive bodybuilding, straddling a family drama with western-tinged crime and a heady sapphic romance. All those themes are present before any inklings of surrealism begin to creep into the world — but they inform each sexy, grotesque, and darkly funny development throughout.

If you take away the drug-fueled dream sequences and bloody murders, you’re left with a love story. Lou (Kristen Stewart) and Jackie (Katy O’Brian) are just two crazy kids trying to make it in a big bad world. Their volatile romance is full of twists, turns, and frequent detours into the surreal, though, so some disorientation is warranted. Fortunately, Glass sat down with Inverse to walk through the film’s heightened ending and unpack the fallout of its final moments.

Spoilers for Love Lies Bleeding ahead.

What happens at the end of Love Lies Bleeding?

Love literally makes Jackie bigger.

Anna Kooris/A24

By the end of Love Lies Bleeding, our star-crossed lovers have spent a fair amount of time at odds. Jackie’s rampant steroid use has her spiraling out of control, and she’s forced to turn to Lou’s kingpin dad for support. Lou Sr. (Ed Harris) is obviously bad news — he might have murdered Lou’s mom, and he also nurtured Lou’s instincts for violence — but Jackie has to learn this the hard way. She becomes a tool to bring Lou back into the family business. After murdering Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), the one witness to Jackie and Lou’s first misdeed, Jackie becomes Lou Sr.’s hostage.

It’s up to Lou, who’s been grappling with her role in her dad’s criminal enterprise, to end the cycle of violence for good. She sets off to rescue Jackie from Lou Sr.’s compound and is surprised to find her sister Beth (Jena Malone) hiding out there. Beth is still reeling from the death of her abusive husband JJ (Dave Franco), and having learned that Jackie and Lou killed him and disposed of his body, she’s not too happy with her sister. Their final conversation is admittedly difficult to sit through, given the fact that Lou tries to win Beth back to her side and escape with her. Ultimately, she realizes that Beth’s loyalties lie with Lou Sr. so she resolves to confront their dad once and for all and get the hell out of dodge.

Revenge gets ripped

Jackie’s final transformation is “fairly absurdist,” but totally honors her emotional truth.

Anna Kooris/A24

While Lou stands up to her dad, Jackie finds her inner strength in every sense of the word. She grows to the size of a building, assists Lou in taking down Lou Sr., and then whisks Lou off into the clouds.

“They feel elated and invincible, and all the things you can feel when you’re head over heels in love,” director Rose Glass tells Inverse. Their newfound stature is just a literal manifestation of how they feel inside, “even though it’s all kind of fairly absurdist.” It’s one of the film’s biggest swings, but it pays off handsomely.

“We definitely wrote versions of the whole showdown, which did fully take place in the real world, and nothing surreal happened,” Glass says. “And we just kept finding it unsatisfying. We already had these kind of moments where her body started to hint at transformation and we needed to follow through on what we’d been flirting with in the fantastical realm.”

Jackie’s dreams of becoming a professional bodybuilder stem from a desire to be strong within. “If you take the literal bodybuilding competition element out of it, what she wants to be is almost like a god or a statue.” That desire doesn’t quite manifest in a healthy way in earlier moments: the first time Jackie hulks out, it’s to murder JJ. In her final transformation, she feels like she’s reached her final form. She’s let go of the insecurities and fears that might have been holding her back before, and in opening herself up to love, she’s able to experience true elation.

Happy endings, reimagined

Ed Harris’ Lou Sr. is the true villain of Love Lies Bleeding, but no one in the film is entirely perfect.

Anna Kooris/A24

With Love Lies Bleeding, Glass and her co-writer Weronika Tofilska were careful to avoid the dreaded “killing all the queers” trope. There was never a version of the story in which Jackie and Lou didn’t run off into the sunset (“If there was, we very quickly were like, ‘Oh no, this feels wrong,’” Glass says), but their happy ending doesn’t come without compromise.

Lou’s choice to leave Beth behind has already been met with scrutiny, but it’s a subject that Glass and Tofilska tried to approach sensitively.

“Beth is a victim of domestic abuse,” Glass says, “and it’s scary and sad and fascinating, the kind of things that go on in the minds of people involved in those kind of scenarios on either side — victim or perpetrator.”

Despite being the target of JJ’s abuse, Glass doesn’t see Beth only as a victim. “I wanted in her last moment to kind of be like, ‘Well, fuck you,’” the director says. “She’s her own autonomous, tough kind of person as well. She has her own truth and way of looking at what’s going on.” Unfortunately, it’s Lou — not JJ, and not their father — that ends up taking Beth’s hostility. It’s not pretty, but it does reveal another aspect of the film’s “love is the drug” theme. From Lou’s perspective, JJ was a monster, but Beth loved him, and as misguided as that love was, she reserves the right to mourn him.

“Her sister fucking like, killed her husband,” Glass laughs. “Just because he’s a monster doesn’t make that not monstrous as well... Regardless of whatever else is going on, you can sort of see where both of them are coming from.” Beth’s rejection was Glass’ way of asserting a form of independence in the character, however misguided. It also allowed Lou to finally make a selfish choice.

Beth was Lou’s “reason,” the one thing keeping her chained to her life in her hometown. In falling in love with Jackie, she’s forced to let go of her sister and choose herself. “That’s where her heart is,” Glass adds. “And in that sense love can be sort of selfish. It can be all of these things.”

Love Lies Bleeding is now playing in theaters.

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