Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) finds his best childhood memory was of his mother praying in church, but sadly she was taken from him too soon and died when he was only a boy. The last thing she told him to do was find a girl like the Virgin Mary for his own true love, but that promise he made has left him in an unusual state as he cannot get sexually aroused at all because no woman lives up to his high ideals. When his father became a priest in reaction to his wife's death, Yu was only too happy to go along with it - but that was the start of major problems...
A four hour epic, for many of its fans Sion Sono's Love Exposure was his masterpiece after toiling in eccentric genre movies for so long, as if it had all paid off and this was the movie he was meant to make. However, that was a double edged sword for others, as his obsessions had become so personal that he was doing the opposite of playing to the gallery, he was pitching this solely at his own interests and if anyone else liked it, as they say, that was a bonus. Considering the project's length, you might have thought at the very least it would be a slog to get through, but that wasn't quite true.
This was down to the plot taking interesting turns, so it was not as if Sion was concentrating on one single idea and repeating himself for hour after hour. It moved from comedy to romance to downright weirdness with a light touch, even throwing in the odd action scene or two, yet not because director was unsure of what he could pull off with this material, more to ensure there was enough variety in his method to justify the audience spending so long with these characters, who in other hands might have simply been repellent. As our hero is a self-proclaimed pervert, you can imagine he might not be the most admirable of fellows.
But pervert in this case means more of a goofy misfit rather than a danger to society, as Yu finds his father's impossibly high standards now he has had his heart broken twice (another love enters his life, though exits after a while) too much to live up to thanks to his confessions being mild and uneventful. This posits an interesting dilemma in that if you're wanting to be forgiven, does this force you into dubious practices so you can find your salvation from them: basically, is the intent on being good not enough for a religion, for a mindset in fact, that cannot believe anyone could be wholly pure of heart? If you believe the worst of people will they inevitably live down to the pressure of your expectations?
Therefore before long Yu has joined a band of perverts and after being trained in violence, he finds he likes being a stealthy photographer of women's underwear - while the women are wearing it thanks to his camera aimed up their skirts. Still this does not turn him on, but then he meets Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima) who is a scrapper and man-hater, but a loner teen like him: once he sees her panties he's fallen in love and is finally able to get aroused. Trouble is, in a twist that makes this look like some kind of bizarre tribute to Doris Day romantic comedies of a certain vintage, he was disguised as a woman when he met her, now Yoko is in love with this alter ego, and they are about to become brother and sister when - well, you can see this is getting complicated. And no wonder when there's a cult leader (Sakura Andô) hoping to shatter their strange, youthful idealism; really this considered sexual ecstacy and religious ecstacy as powerful, but second best to true love, misty-eyed mush maybe, but hard earned for Yu in these surroundings. You definitely feel as if you've suffered along with him.