“Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.”
Lost in Translation, written and directed by Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette) and starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, is a hard movie to describe. It’s a strange mix of comedy, romance, and soul-searching without fully being about any of those things. The movie is beautiful and evokes strong feelings that are hard to pin down in words. Overall, it’s a journey, not a destination, but it’s a journey I’m very glad got recorded.
The plot follows two lost souls: Bob, an aging actor, and Charlotte, a disenchanted newlywed. We meet both characters in the heart of Tokyo where we immediately feel just as out of place as the protagonists. We quickly learn that the characters are out of place not only in Japan, but also in life, as both struggle with who they are and who they can relate to. And as they realize how lost they are, they find each other. The story isn’t about getting un-lost so much as being lost together, and the bittersweet comfort that brings.
I went to this temple and all these monks were chanting and I didn’t feel anything. John’s been using these hair products and I don’t know who I married anymore.
The tension and conflict in this movie are understated and complex. Each of the characters tries to reach out at some point in the movie and is met with misunderstanding or disdain. You definitely feel the loneliness, even hopelessness, that these characters feel and have to keep hidden from the world. When the characters connect, they’re able to understand that loneliness in each other without even stating it. It isn’t quite friendship, it isn’t quite romance, and neither of them is quite sure what to do with those feelings.
Lost in Translation succeeds in making us feel as lost and out-of-place as the main characters, which makes it that much sweeter when they find each other. There is no fairy-tale ending for our characters—they end up just as lost as they began—but their brief encounter lets both of them know that they’re no longer alone in the universe. Maybe it’s just part of the human condition, or maybe it’s because I have a major depressive disorder, but I too took some solace in their being lost together, that we had been able to share that dull ache of solitude without even really expressing it.
Lost in Translation is heavily character-driven without a lot of clear plot points to latch onto. Without an emotional attachment to the characters, it’s hard to describe exactly what actually happens in the movie. But the characters and the relationship between them are beautiful and memorable. It’s a very different kind of movie, but I absolutely love it. I don’t know of any movie that does this better than this. If it sounds at all interesting to you, you will not be disappointed.
Winner: Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Sofia Coppola)
Nominations: Best Picture (Ross Katz, Sofia Coppola), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bill Murray), Best Director (Sofia Coppola)
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Director: Sofia Coppola
Genres: drama, indie