“I came to Japan to be alone. Sometimes being alone isn’t about other people.”Margaret
There is a certain type of film that only makes sense to watch late at night, like this psychological drama set in the seedier side of Tokyo’s nightlife and love hotels, following a Canadian woman on a downward spiral. Alexandra Daddario’s performance as Margaret is superb, often wordlessly communicating her gradually unravelling state through expressive eyes and body language. Unfortunately everything around her feels like a poorly sketched caricature from her relationship with a gangster to the bizarre ending that feels like a Westerner’s fetishised wish fulfilment. Catherine Hanrahan adapted the screenplay from her own debut novel so she is familiar with the material but perhaps the psychological aspects were better suited to prose — the film contains only passing references to Margaret’s ruminations on her past and fears about her sanity. It may also have been easier to empathise with a fundamentally irresponsible and self-involved character in that medium. My impression is that Lost Girls & Love Hotels wants to be a grittier, sexier Lost in Translation, and yet William Olsson’s direction seems unwilling to commit to its darker themes — many of its sex scenes are surprisingly coy and its characters frequently sound insipid (“Everything goes away, I know. Nothing lasts. I get it.”). Most of my criticisms made more sense upon discovering that the film was shelved and recut between 2017 and its eventual release in 2020, apparently excising a significant quantity of bleaker and more explicit footage in an effort to appeal to a wider audience. This evidently neutered the tone and, whilst it is unclear whether the original cut would have resolved all the film’s issues, I would be fascinated to see it. The strength of Daddario’s performance alone makes Lost Girls & Love Hotels watchable but this shallow and underwhelming experience is worthy of a short rest rather than an overnight stay.