Lost Girls and Love Hotels

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Lost Girls and Love Hotels Movie Poster Image
Seedy BDSM sexual drama has nudity, language.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The messaging aims to put expectations in perspective: Life isn't smooth, and happy endings aren't realistic. Appreciate the perfect and beautiful moments, because they don't last.

Positive Role Models & Representations

An adult woman seeks out casual sexual encounters looking to be treated as a BDSM submissive.

Violence

Implied violence in moments between scenes. In the background, one character physically disarms another with punches. Threat of murder. Suicidal ideation. Consensual bondage/dominant-submissive (BDSM) sex scenes include torture and mistreatment -- belts around the neck, zip ties, being strangled.

Sex

Many explicit sex scenes that include BDSM and nudity (backsides, breasts). Sex workers fawn over men at a party. Images of Japanese erotica artwork. Lots of random/casual sex.

Language

Infrequent use of words including "f--k," "c--t," and "t-tties."

Consumerism

Glowing comments about a Mercedes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A group of friends meets regularly at a bar. Frequent drinking, drunkenness, and cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lost Girls and Love Hotels is an explicit romantic drama about a woman from the United States now living in Japan who fills her free moments with casual sexual encounters. It's also a sobering examination of what it means to be young, alone, and living paycheck to paycheck. While it's never fully explained what Margaret (Alexandra Daddario) is running from, she's a tortured soul who only feels satisfaction when being mistreated during bondage/dominant-submissive (BDSM) sex: belts around the neck, zip ties, being strangled, etc. This consensual sexual violence isn't glamorized, and the details of the acts aren't shown on-screen, but there is nudity (bottoms, breasts). Margaret also smokes and drinks -- often too much -- with two other ex-pats at a bar. Infrequent strong language includes "f--k" as well as a discussion of why the word "c--t" is commonplace in Scotland but scandalous in the United States. The movie's messages aren't necessarily positive, but they're quite clear: Life isn't pretty, happiness is temporary, and running away isn't an escape.

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What's the story?

Adapted from Catherine Hanrahan's novel of the same name, LOST GIRLS AND LOVE HOTELS follows Margaret (Alexandra Daddario), a U.S. ex-pat who works in Japan as a training instructor for flight attendants. She parties at clubs and bars with her friends every night and seeks out BDSM sexual encounters, but when she meets Kuzu (Takehiro Hira), a mysterious Yakuza, she wonders whether she could finally be happy. 

Is it any good?

It has lots of sex, but this movie is about as sexy as the other modern-day BDSM movie, Fifty Shades of Grey -- i.e., not sexy at all. Hanrahan adapts her own slow-woven novel about a broken woman living on the edge in Tokyo, painting a portrait that suggests that living loose -- drinking, smoking, hooking up -- is pathetic rather than appealing. While the idea that Margaret is a walking trainwreck is crystal clear, Margaret's pursuit of dangerous sex comes off as questionable (although some might see it as intriguing). Adult viewers may well translate Margaret's run of random hookups as a sign that she's troubled, but teens won't necessarily see it the same way. 

Novels are great at exploring complex characters who deal with their pain by acting out, and it's impossible not to guess that there was much more to Margaret and Kuzu that got left on the page (certainly that must be the case for her two drinking buddies, about whom we learn almost nothing). We're only given nibbles of conversation between the two -- and a one-sentence glimpse of what Margaret is running from. She's emotionally aimless, and despite the notion that she's so utterly alone by choice, we're given no idea why she feels so empty. That said, the appeal of this unromantic romance is how love blooms: Margaret and Kuzu don't judge each other on their lifestyle choices, and seeing that two highly flawed characters can find someone to love may offer promise to those who haven't. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how sex is depicted in Lost Girls and Love Hotels. Is Margaret's pursuit of casual encounters unhealthy or sex-positive? Why? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • What does the film have to say about running away from problems? Are there other ways to have a "rebirth" or find a fresh start?

  • Discuss the filmmaker's choice to not include modern technology in the film. How can smartphones, computers, and social media interfere with storytelling? How have you seen other films deal with this issue? 

  • How is Japanese culture used as a storytelling device here? Do you think Tokyo is represented accurately? Why is representation important?

  • How is Margaret's substance use depicted? Is it glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romantic dramas

Themes & Topics

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