In Lost Girls and Love Hotels director William Olssen presents his audience with a bleak character study of a person who uses alcohol and sex to numb their senses and to stop the feeling of isolation to drown them. Eventually, he shows us that no matter how much you try to run from a problem. You can never truly escape it. A film about yearning for that missing piece hidden within, this is a solid flick.
Haunted by her past, Margaret (Alexandra Daddario) has relocated to Tokyo, teaching English by day and losing herself in anonymous sexual encounters at the city’s infamous love hotels by night. After an unexpected encounter, she begins a tumultuous affair with Kazu (Takehiro Hira), a Yakuza gangster. Spiralling out of control, she is on a collision course with a malevolent figure who picks her up and offers to take her to a love hotel. Alone and in danger, Margaret has a decision to make.
After some research, there appears to be a lot of comparisons made to Lost Girls and Love Hotels and the Fifty Shade films. This is, in truth a useless comparison, where the Fifty Shades films glamourised that relationships. Here we are far more focused on the spiral that Margaret goes through during her time in Tokyo. This is far more a character study on whether when one leaves one place to begin again, can they ever really do so? Or are they destined to spiral and repeat previous actions or venture down avenues to try and forget what they left?
That is a far more intriguing dialogue to have and the film does that quite well. Does it need as much of the raunchy scenes? Of course not, but they add more layers to these characters and specifically to Margaret as we watch her in vain try to carry on her life whilst never fully dealing with the issue that caused her to leave.
This is a terrific turn from Alexandra Daddario, who helps carry the serious tone that the script and direction needs. She helps keep the film grounded in reality as she begins to lose each thing of importance left to her. Her tale is a bleak one and it isn’t until she reaches that grungy bottom that she can realise that there is more to life and most importantly her life than what she thinks. You very much believe her as she descends, and you feel her pain more and more throughout the film.
Without a doubt, from the start of the picture Lost Girls and Love Hotels let you know that this will not be a comfortable nor overly enjoyable experience for the audience nor Margaret from the first frames. That solo walk down the tunnel with an extreme close up is a little terrifying as we see a scared and broken Margaret at first be afraid of the strange man behind her, only to then show us how broken and worn down she is.
It’s horrible, but also important for the audience to see and experience this type of scenario from a female perspective. She self-loathes and almost continually tries to stay drunk to help eradicate the memories or thoughts that she has when she is sober. She jokes about what it would be like to be a true drunk. All the while being one herself with her two ex-pat friends. Margaret is a woman in clear pain and it seems only one ex-pat character cares enough to help. She is living at rock bottom and has no clear want to escape it.
These are the type of characters written for men and we have seen countless films where a man spiralling or down on his luck ventures this way to cheap sex, drinking etc. So for Lost Girls and Love Hotels to have a female in that same position is interesting. The fear that a sexual meet up could go very wrong for Margaret is high and continually present throughout. Especially so considering what Margaret likes to help get her rocks off. Kazu asks her how she doesn’t know if he is a bad man and her simple reply of “I don’t” tells you all you need to know about her psyche at this time.
Questions do need to be asked if Kazu needs to be in the yakuza to make the film work as well as it does. Simply being a married man is enough to intrigue for his character where the danger of his character is forced. It would almost feel more authentic for this man who could potentially lose his family due to this affair to become desperate and have a deeper fury. Or for him to enjoy the dom and submissive relationship with Margaret due to being stifled in his marriage. But these are minor peeves and do not distract from the overall piece.
Olsson keeps a distance with his characters until he has to have his camera up and close. We see the subtle nature of the openness and emptiness of daytime Tokyo. Yet as the sun sets and the city becomes busier. Margaret and others looking for an escape find themselves in these small cramped rooms drinking together. The fear of being alone is constant throughout. This is a film that is paced very well and when we get to out potentially dangerous finale the resulting payoff is well earned.
Further proof that Daddario can carry more weighty projects. Lost Girls and Love Hotels is a film that reels you in with its female-centric take on a story that is usually left just for male characters. This is a film far better than its trailer and marketing suggest. Ignore the trailer and just jump right in. It’s worth it.
Dazzler Media presents Lost Girls and Love Hotels on DVD & Digital Download from 8th February
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