Ayush Das Adhikary’s review published on Letterboxd:
Children of terrible fathers and absent mothers.
An ambitious, outrageously sprawling epic about love, lust, religion, cults, adolescent angst, identity, family, friendship, lies, boners, neglect, rebellion, trauma, and the art of up-skirt photography. It may sound like a lot (as it should) but this is barely scratching the surface of the densely filled buffet that is Love Exposure.
A boy, two girls. Three people who have suffered because of their families. Their paths converge and collide in the only way Sion Sono knows how. Love Exposure exists at a crossroads between religion, love, family, and perversion. In these three people's cases, it is either their parents' own baggage, unstable nature, or lack of humanity that forever changes their lives and robs them of a normal childhood. They choose different paths: becoming a voyeuristic pervert, or picking fights with all men, or working for a shady cult. They have no strings to tie them back to a caring family, because said families are either breaking or broken.
"I'm a pervert but not a phony! I am a pervert with dignity."
The boy. A product of neglect.
Neglect. Losing your mother before you're old enough to understand what death even means.
Neglect. Having a father whose grief overtakes him and leads him to religious and emotional extremes, which he blindly forces you to be a part of.
Neglect. You grow up as a child of neglect. Your pure nature cannot overcome your sorrow. So you change, even though the change is a way to cling on to whatever remains of your father. You commit sins. You ask for forgiveness. Life goes on. The sins get worse. You are not forgiven. Life still goes on.
The good nature turns into delinquency, but who is to blame him? When there are no more people to turn to, when family ceases to be family, we seek a new family. If that family is a bunch of misfits that do not belong, so be it. They will not belong together.
"Jesus, I approve of you as the only cool man besides Kurt Cobain."
The girl. A product of torture.
Torture. Young enough to be tortured by your father without being able to run away, and old enough to be forever changed by it. Able to resist his advances, but understanding that running away is the only option left. When the opportunity to do so presents itself, you take it.
"Give it to me."
Another girl. Another product of torture.
Torture. A horrible father who is fond of belting. The belt clashes against the skin again and again and again, forming bruises all over. Life in its bleakest form, and the only way to liberate yourself is by ending you or him. However, no matter the path you take, your heart is utterly annihilated. Every mind and heart has a breaking point, and yours was reached before anyone could save you.
"Who cares about the standards of normal people? Listen to me! You're definitely a misfit, and I can live with that."
Love Exposure is a celebration of love. For most of its massive runtime, things continue to get worse. We plunge deeper and deeper into this increasingly bleak tragedy. Love gets overpowered by darkness until all we're left with is a sea of blood and breakdowns. But like a phoenix, love rises back up again; bruised, battered, but not dead.
Without having managed to scratch its surface after all these sentences, all I can do is urge whoever reads this review to seek the film out for themselves. Do not let its runtime discourage you from experiencing one of the most bizarrely ambitious creations in all of cinema. At once tender and whimsical, intimate and grand, aggressive and loving, ultraviolent and introspective, Love Exposure is the very definition of what cinema without boundaries is capable of achieving. This one is for the romantics and the optimists. This is cinema for the heart.
"Love, the greatest of them all. If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I dole out my goods, and if I deliver my body that I may boast, but have not love, nothing I am profited. Love is long suffering, love is kind, it is not jealous, it is not inflated and does not boast, it is not discourteous, it is not selfish, it is not irritable, it does not enumerate the evil. Love never falls in ruins, but whether prophecies, they will be abolished, or tongues, they will cease, or knowledge, it will be superseded. For we know in part and prophecy in part. But when the perfect comes, the imperfect will be superseded. When I was an infant, I spoke as an infant, I reckoned as an infant. When I became an adult, I abolished the things of the infant. For now we see through a mirror in an enigma, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know as also I was fully known. But now remains Faith, Hope, Love! These three. But the greatest of these is love!"
Love is immortal.