‘Jagged Mind’ Personifies the Horrors of Toxic Relationships [Review]

Jagged Mind

Kelley Kali’s Jagged Mind is a nuanced and textured effort that thoughtfully depicts the horrors of living in an abusive relationship. Additionally, the flick delivers ample twists and turns and an intense and unpredictable third act. 

Jagged Mind follows Billy (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), a woman experiencing blackouts that cause her to lose time. She initially believes the episodes may be related to early-onset dementia, as her mother experienced cognitive decline. But she can’t shake the notion that her experience feels different from that of her mother. Billy is not forgetting details or distant memories, more so than experiencing total blackouts. Her loss of consciousness appears to center around her recollections of her first date with Alex (Shannon Woodward), a romantic partner that subjected her to varying degrees of hostility, including outright abuse.    

What first struck me about Jagged Mind is that it’s a film where the lead character just happens to be queer. This isn’t a storyline that wouldn’t have worked or made sense with a straight protagonist. But screenwriter Allyson Morgan (in her first feature-length screenwriting credit) centers the proceedings around a queer relationship and that is nice to see. For years, LGBTQIA+ characters were mostly seen in supporting roles if they were represented at all. And in many cases, it felt like we existed as human punchlines or to serve a diversity quotient. But the characters in Jagged Mind simply happen to be in a same-sex relationship and that’s that. That’s progress from any angle and for that I am grateful. 

Also Read: We’re Living In The Age of Queer Horror

With that said, it does seem appropriate that the lead character is queer. People within the community tend to come from trauma. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule. But a disproportionate number of LGBTQIA+ folks experience various forms of hardship during our formative years. And in so many cases, that leaves us susceptible to being preyed upon by romantic partners that don’t have our best interests in mind.

I’m not always eager to discuss this but I was in a pretty toxic relationship many years ago and didn’t even realize it was unhealthy until it occurred to me in hindsight after the ordeal had ended. Coming from a dysfunctional home life makes a person more susceptible to trusting the wrong people and missing the warning signs. But it seems especially common in the queer community. Many of us grew up feeling less than and like we weren’t worthy of love because our family didn’t accept us or because we were bullied in school. And that can blur lines and impact our judgment when choosing a romantic partner. 

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The way Billy is trapped in a time loop with her abusive ex feels particularly relevant when considering what it’s like to exist in an abusive dynamic. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it feels like a time loop you cannot escape. It feels like each day brings the same patterns of abuse that were present the day before. Moreover, it feels like your counterpart is doing everything in their power to keep you in the relationship and block your exit strategy. Many of those themes are explored throughout Jagged Mind and are used as both narrative devices and metaphors for the struggle one endures when trying to get out of an unhealthy union. 

Paralleling the way these things happen in real life, Alex doesn’t seem so bad when we first meet her. We see Billy getting to know Alex and it’s easy to see why she falls for her. Alex has a lot of great characteristics. So, anyone that has ever looked past red flags against their better judgment will be able to relate. It’s easy to only see the good and eschew the bad from our minds. We drown out the voice in the back of our head telling us something is wrong because we want to connect and want to be loved. But that has the potential to lead to a cycle of abuse that only perpetuates itself. 

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Depictions of domestic abuse aside, my only real criticism of Jagged Mind is that it does take its time to get where it’s going. We don’t really get into the terrifying details behind Billy’s memory loss until the third act. But while I wish things had progressed a bit more quickly, the performances are strong and the subtext regarding toxic dynamics held my attention until the narrative picked up. And to be fair, the third act is worth the wait.

Ultimately, Jagged Mind is an effective thriller that makes plenty of astute observations about the long-term ramifications of trauma and the helplessness one feels when trying to leave an unhealthy relationship. 

If you’re curious to check the film out, you can stream it exclusively on Hulu beginning June 15

  • ‘Jagged Mind'


‘Jagged Mind’ is rich with both subtext and thrills.



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