Sexy, sweaty, suspenseful.

I had the pleasure of seeing Love Lies Bleeding in a theater full of gay people not once, but twice in the past month. All I knew about the movie going in was that Kristen Stewart was in it and that she was hot. I’m happy to report that both of those things are true.

Love Lies Bleeding is a love story between two women, Jackie and Lou (played by Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart respectively). Lou has never left the small town that she grew up in. She is estranged from her crime boss father who more or less rules the town, but Lou sticks around to keep an eye on her sister who is stuck in an abusive relationship with her husband. Jackie is a bodybuilder who is passing through on her way to a contest in Las Vegas. In typical lesbian fashion, Jackie and Lou, have sex and move in together within 12 hours of meeting. Jackie then does the hottest thing a woman can possibly do– she beats Lou’s sister’s abusive husband, JJ, to death. The rest of the movie follows the two women as they scramble to cover up the crime. 

One of the things that stood out to me about Love Lies Bleeding is its showcasing of candid sexuality between two women. At the very first moment that Lou lays eyes on Jackie, you can feel that she actively desires her. You can feel it more so during their sweaty, muscular, sex montage that electrified the air in both theaters. After suffering through years of sterilized female on female sexuality filtered through the lens of the male gaze, it was refreshing to watch one woman finger another woman against a bathroom sink in a way that was realistic and hot.

Relationship Toxicity Report: Toxic But I Kind of Get It
On first watch, my takeaway was “I personally would not have done all that but go off I guess.” However, I hadn’t really considered each character’s motivation and circumstances. Lou felt stuck in her hometown as a lesbian with no romantic prospects outside of one really clingy girl who could not take a hint. I remember the first time I saw another dyke after years of feeling alone. It was like rain after a lifelong drought. Prior to meeting Jackie, Lou was experiencing lesbian loneliness on top of the isolation of being estranged from her family.

Was it toxic for Lou to shoot Jackie up with steroids within minutes of meeting her? Yes. But being that Lou was already entrenched in the culture of casual steroid use for gains, I do kind of get why she would offer to share whatever she could with Jackie in order to form a connection. I don’t think Lou could have predicted Jackie’s overuse of steroids, nor the consequences that followed.

Jackie was a character that I felt could have been explored more, but I understand that that couldn’t necessarily happen while she was in the throes of steroid (and murder) induced psychosis. It was hard for me to tell, at first, whether the love she professed to Lou was genuine or an extension of her way of using sex to get what she needs from people. By the end of the movie, I was somewhat more convinced but wary, as the turbulence of their relationship never really seemed to end. Lou continued to clean up after and take care of Jackie, right up until the credits rolled, but Jackie never really went to those lengths for Lou. I think that if her time in foster care had been expanded upon, we may have had more insight into her behavior. Why did the bodybuilding contest matter to her so much that she made a series of poor choices just to be in it? Was it the psychosis, or did the contest really mean that much to her? Did she kill JJ because of her past, because of the roid rage, or because his actions upset Lou? I’m waiting for the director’s cut to find out.

Anna Baryshnikov as Daisy in Love Lies Bleeding

If there was a victim in this movie, I would consider it to be Daisy (the aforementioned clingy girl who had a crush on Lou). Daisy is portrayed as an antagonist to Lou and Jackie’s relationship, but her biggest offense was simply being bad about boundaries. She had just as few options as Lou, but wasn’t as attractive or socially adept. She did seem to genuinely care about Lou, despite not being able to take a hint, and she ended up dead because of it. I hope that every Daisy in the world finds an equally weird girl who actually likes her. 

On that note, I’d like to acknowledge the handling of the the abusive dynamic between Lou’s sister and JJ. From the fawning to the escalation of violence to the codependency, hopelessness, and grief. I think the movie got a lot right about the reality of abuse–especially Lou’s prediction that the cycle would only end with JJ killing his wife. It was hard to watch, but I appreciated the realism.

Love Lies Bleeding is not for the faint of heart in terms of how graphic it is, but I do think that it is the sexy lesbian murder movie we deserve. One could argue that we deserve a lesbian love story that isn’t toxic, but I would say that it could not be this movie because hiding a body with your girlfriend is inherently kind of toxic. Yes, I love to see healthy lesbian love on screen, but I also love to see abusive men get their heads bashed in by extremely strong women. You can’t always have both!