‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Lou And Jackie Escape The Town?


The English film director Rosie Glass had already shown a personal inclination towards the unusual and the odd, both in terms of content and style, in her directorial debut film Saint Maud. In her new second film, crime thriller Love Lies Bleeding, the stylistic oddity remains in a satisfying way, although the story is less unusual than before. The plot is centered around two women, Lou and Jackie, who fall in love at a small-town gym sometime around 1989, and the various mortal and legal dangers they have to encounter over the next few weeks. Although the premise of Love Lies Bleeding is not necessarily a very new one, the whole plot does keep viewers guessing and makes for an intense and thrilling watch.

Spoiler Alert

What is the film about?

Set in a small town somewhere in the Southern USA around 1989, Love Lies Bleeding begins inside the Crater gym, which is truly a popular spot in the area. With the place packed with men and women working out extensively, pushing their bodies to all sorts of limits, the protagonist is introduced in a rather anticlimactic manner. Lou happens to be the manager of the gym, but her life is not as glorious or exciting as it might seem. Lou is seen clearing a clogged toilet in her very first scene, as she has to put her hand inside all the filth and the vomit of the clients just to get the toilet back in order. At the end of a mostly mundane and ordinary day, she returns home, where she stays alone only with a pet cat and tries to get rid of her addiction to cigarettes. This is mostly the routine in Lou’s life, which leaves her frustrated and wanting for more, as she often dreams of leaving this small, backward town someday.

The protagonist’s life changes when she sees a woman working out at her gym the very next day. As she openly prefers women, Lou is immediately attracted to the physique and overall appearance of the new member. The latter is quite interested in making acquaintances with the gym manager, and she introduces herself as Jackie, a professional bodybuilder in the making. Jackie intends to participate in a bodybuilding competition being held in Las Vegas in a few days and has made a stop at this small town only to train herself even more. Without any considerable money on her, she sleeps under bridges and passes for the first couple of days, and she also gets herself a makeshift job at a local shooting range. However, her situation is helped too when she meets Lou, whom she is evidently attracted to.

Lou and Jackie become friends immediately, and hoping to help her with the upcoming competition, the manager reveals that she has a secret stash of steroids that some of her gym members buy from her. Although Jackie does not take steroids, mostly because of the high cost of them, she certainly does not mind taking a jab at present, and the two women get intimate soon after. They start a romantic relationship, and Jackie starts living at Lou’s house. However, neither of them knows that an absolute whirlwind awaits them, which is soon about to toss their lives around.

How does jealousy creep into their relationship?

Jealousy is definitely a recurrent theme in Love Lies Bleeding, and its central characters, who are arguably quite flawed as well, are prone to it. Both the central characters are quite conventional and even toxic to a degree, which is understandably a very direct effect of their surroundings. The unnamed town where the story takes place is quite conservative, and so every matter is thought of or considered in very traditional ways. Rosie Glass brilliantly sets this tone with the very opening scene of her film, in which members working out at the Crater gym are dripping with stereotypical images of masculinity and toughness. Sweaty bodies and painful grunts clearly physically excite some, and all of this is interspersed with shots of various posters on the walls, which are motivational to the extent of being pushy. Therefore, it is perhaps no wonder that both Lou and Rosie are irked by jealousy at the very first chance that they get, and both do not hesitate to express their frustration at each other. 

On her first day in town, when Jackie had been looking for a job that would help her survive the next few days, she came across a man who wanted to take advantage of her. She was evidently accustomed to such situations, and Jackie let the man get intimate with her only in order to get the job at the shooting range. As it turns out, this man happened to be the brother-in-law of Lou, JJ, and the two have extreme animosity between themselves. JJ is terribly violent and abusive towards Lou’s sister, Beth, because of which the protagonist hates him probably more than anyone else in the town. A few days into their dating phase, Lou and Jackie go out to have dinner with Beth and JJ, and when Lou lashes out against the man for raising his hands on Beth once again, he hits her right where it would hurt most. JJ reveals that he had sex with Jackie, and while his adultery is not something that shocks her anymore, Lou is devastated knowing that her new girlfriend had slept with her biggest enemy.

Along with this, it had also been revealed a bit earlier that the shooting range where Jackie had started working actually belonged to Lou’s father, Lou Sr. As it turns out, Lou is estranged from and extremely disliking of her father as well, which makes the current situation even worse for the couple. Lou blames Jackie for getting associated with the two men she hates the most in the whole world, even though the girlfriend really had no way of knowing any of this before. The shooting range was the biggest business in the town, which made Jackie look for a job there, and it also got her involved with JJ. There is no logical reason for Lou to be angry, but her jealousy takes over for the moment, and she loses control of her tongue. However, she also realizes her mistake very soon and apologizes to her girlfriend, mending their relationship.

In the case of Jackie, she is taken over by jealousy much later in the film when she goes away to Las Vegas and finds herself in trouble with the law. As Jackie calls up Lou’s number for help, she realizes that her girlfriend has slept with Daisy, which drives her terribly angry. Although the protagonist had reluctantly gotten intimate with Daisy only to ensure that the woman would not talk to the police, meaning that the well-being of Jackie was her concern, the latter misses this perspective completely. Therefore, when she gets the chance to go over to Lou’s house armed with a gun, she even points the weapon at her girlfriend out of rage, which is born out of jealousy. Jackie’s anger might be seen as a bit more understandable, though, as she is still under the influence of steroids.

How does Jackie get into a series of problems?

Jackie’s entry into the small town undoubtedly sets into motion a series of events that eventually get her and her close ones into a lot of trouble. Although her relationship with Lou does turn out to be quite genuine and sincere, the beginning seems more out of convenience for the bodybuilder. Not only does Jackie get a place to stay, but she also gets access to steroids for free, which obviously bulk up her body and help her towards the dream she wants to achieve. Jackie is someone who grew up in the 1980s, which was historically the golden era for bodybuilding and extreme fitness athletics in the USA. She enjoys the thrill of creating a toned body image for herself, as well as the mental satisfaction of feeling strong and in control. Throughout the film, she is seen practicing the poses and carefully cutting out anything detrimental from her diet, so it is no wonder that she quickly gets addicted to the steroid injections, taking them quite often. 

Within some time, it is the steroids from which Jackie gets all of her confidence and her strength, and this, along with seemingly something from her past, makes her commit a murder. When JJ terribly assaults his wife Beth, who has to be admitted to a hospital, Lou is extremely angry and helpless at the same time, which she expresses in front of Jackie. Although the film never mentions it, Jackie might have actually witnessed domestic violence in the past or might have even been a victim of it. She states that she left home in order to pursue her bodybuilding dreams, but the reception she gets from her mother over the phone suggests that there could have been something more serious in her past. At present, the possible memories of the past, the dismay in her lover’s eyes, and the rush of testosterone from the steroids all combine, making Jackie lose her conscience, and she batters JJ to his death as punishment for his acts against Beth.

Lou tries to cover up the whole situation and protect her girlfriend from the immense legal trouble that would come her way, but Jackie ends up leaving town and going to Las Vegas for the competition. At her worst, Jackie is now totally dependent on steroids for her confidence and well-being, and this further gets her into trouble as she attacks one of her co-performers on stage. This is also when she gets jealous of Lou and ends up conspiring with her father, Lou Sr.

Why does Lou hate her father?

The reason why Lou is so distant from her father, to the point of having a deep-rooted hatred against him, is that Lou Sr. is actually a criminal mobster who runs a local militia in the town. While his most successful business, on the surface, is the shooting range that he runs, much of his income actually comes from selling weapons illegally to Mexico. The man is also notoriously violent and has a reputation for killing off anyone who gets in the way of his business. As a character, Lou Sr. is like a typical antagonist with respect to his actions and profession, but Love Lies Bleeding positively surprises in this respect as well. Despite knowing that his daughter does not want any association with him, Lou Sr. makes a plan to save her from trouble after finding out that she had something to do with JJ’s murder.

The man helps Jackie get released from jail in Las Vegas on the condition that she kill Daisy, the only witness who had seen the two women together on the night of the murder. The presence of deep but very problematic love, to the extent of being toxic, is something that keeps returning in the film, and Lou Sr.’s attempt to save his daughter is a prime example. The man believes that he loves his daughter, and so he must act a certain way in order to protect her. Similarly, Daisy’s unhealthy obsession and love for Lou are also on the same lines. Beth’s devotional love for her abusive husband is another example. But the gangster is also ultimately driven by his necessity to protect his illegal business, and so the delusion of love simply fades off, and he sends his henchman from the police department to kill his own daughter, Lou.

Lou had once been an active part of her father’s trade, and she was even used to pulling the trigger for him, killing anyone who stood against Lou Sr. This is why she knows of the secret spot where her father dumped off innumerable corpses over the years. However, the woman’s conscience stopped her from continuing the terrible acts, and the breaking point seemingly came when her father evidently killed off her mother. It is suggested that the mother had been preparing to talk to the FBI against her husband, and this was why she had been killed by the gangster. Despite her flaws, Lou is very protective of the ones she loves, and the loss of her mother ultimately made her turn distant from her father. By the end of Love Lies Bleeding, though, it might also be easy to wonder whether Lou is very different from her father, especially after she kills off Daisy, who had not originally died from Jackie’s gunshot.

Did Lou and Jackie escape the town?

Love Lies Bleeding‘s ending shows Lou confronting her father at his house about the innumerable lives he had taken, including that of her mother as well. Lou Sr. now does away with all pretense of love and fatherhood, and he hurts his daughter terribly, which has a bizarre effect on Jackie. Her veins are stretched, and her muscles pop up, like they had in some other previous instances too. However, while the previous situations were caused by the effects of the steroids on Jackie, this time, it is purely her love and concern for Lou. Jackie’s body starts to grow, and soon, she takes on a gigantic form, which is actually a symbolic representation of how she finally brings out her true confidence and strength, which is only because of her love for Lou, without any steroids whatsoever. Jackie beats down Lou Sr., stopping him from harming Lou, and the action is followed by an equally fantastical scene in which both Jackie and Lou are in gigantic form and they run away together.

The closing sequence, once again, is symbolic of the liberation and confidence that the two women instill in each other and that they are truly inseparable lovers. At the end of Love Lies Bleeding, Lou leaves her father unharmed, deciding not to commit one more crime by killing him but instead to let him be dealt with by the FBI. She and Jackie then finally drive away from the small town, and she also kills and buries Daisy as well, which her lover does not even realize. The ending does show the two women leaving town together, with the promise of being there for each other. Whether they will be able to successfully evade the law completely is a different question, since the FBI might still come looking for them, but at least for the present, they have truly replaced each other’s unhealthy addictions to cigarettes and steroids, respectively.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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