I tell myself there is no happy ending. All the pieces do not fit together perfectly.
Finding yourself and love are two messy journeys that have an effect that can only be described as “intoxicating.” Add in Tokyo’s complexity and you have a story that draws you in from start to finish. That is what this movie did, and more. Lost Girls & Love Hotels is the film adaptation of the 2006 Catherine Hanrahan’s book and is a captivating visual stimulation.
There are spoilers beyond this point.
When we are first introduced to Margaret (Alexandra Daddario), she looks defeated and disheveled. Her actions and mannerisms were shaky with an addict resemblance as she walks through the alleys late at night. But she is not alone, a man is following her. I love that the first interaction we get with the main character has no context. Now the happy/sad story begins. She seems to thrive on Tokyo’s nightlife, which is when she comes the most alive, fading into the crowds and forgetting her painful past and memories. How does she do this? By self-medicating with alcohol in a self-destructive way. Interacting with her friends Ines (Carice van Houten) and Liam (Andrew Rothney) as her confidants, they meet up in a dive bar trying to figure out life. We see her going into love hotels, which is exactly as it sounds, with men she picks up to satisfy her BDSM longings.
During the day, Margaret helps students learn English at a local flight attendant school. One day while waiting to cross the street, her eyes meet with Kazu (Takehiro Hira), and that was it for both of them. Their story is provocative, dangerous, and changes them both. Kazu is a mystery to her, as she is a puzzle to him. He is also a part of the Yakuza, so they can never be, they come from two different worlds. It’s sort of like Romeo and Juliet. I do not think it was love at first sight, but a forbidden longing that turned into lust and passion. Their rendezvous ends up changing them both and taking them down a path that is not easy. But love never is. Kazu has familial obligations that won’t let him be with her, but the more time he spends with Margaret, things are not as clear. As Margaret falls in love with Kazu, she spirals, getting closer to rock bottom with each love hotel they visit. But somehow, they end up saving each other. Here is a sneak peek of an intimate conversational moment with the couple.
The Shakespearean story really highlights the landscapes, traditions, and modernism in Tokyo. The city itself takes shape as another main character with the city’s lights illuminating the complexity of love, loss, and experiencing life. As director Olsson had mentioned, viewers see Kazu take Margaret to the Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto to the tomb called Buddhas Womb and its symbolism of being reborn.
As you enter the tomb, you walk into total darkness with only a handrail to guide you. You walk and walk until you are completely deprived of any visual sense. Then, finally, you start to see the light at the end of a tunnel, and you come upon an ancient stone illuminated by a small hole in the roof. The lesson is simple. In order to see the light, you first have to experience the dark.
In learning that this movie is based on a book of Hanrahan’s experience in Tokyo as an English teacher, I will be ordering the book for sure. I would be curious to see the similarities and differences between the two. The movie did leave me with a few questions, but not pressing enough to ruin my enjoyment. It seemed to be more about their actions than words, but with the voiceovers in Margaret’s voice and the city’s sounds, it gets you invested. All of that, mixed with a few fast-close shots of the camera, the lighting, and atmosphere, created an addictive story I recommend watching.
The film is will be distributed by Astrakan Film AB and was written by Hanrahan, directed by William Olsson, and produced by Lauren Mann. It stars Alexandra Daddario, Takehiro Hira, Carice van Houten, Kate Easton, Mariko Tsutsui, Andrew Rothney, Elisabeth Larena, Asuka Kurosawa, and more. Also, as a note, the movie is rated R because of language, sexual content, and nudity.
Lost Girls & Love Hotels will be available on demand and digitally September 18. You can watch the trailer for Lost Girls & Love Hotels below.
But somehow, everything is beautiful.