Lost in Translation
- Bill Murray as Bob Harris
- Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte
- Giovanni Ribisi as John
A bittersweet and moving drama, etched with comedy and pathos from Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation makes for a beautifully crafted and thought-provoking movie of alienation and connection. Featuring two beautifully subtle and captivating performances from Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation is a movie to treasure for its quiet and engaging impact.
Bob Harris is a middle-aged, washed-up actor who has journeyed to Tokyo, Japan to shoot a whiskey commercial. Completely alienated as he doesn’t understand the language and blue because of his directionless existence( that includes estrangement from his wife and kids), Bob is lost in a sea of uncertainty and slowly drowning. Meanwhile, a young woman named Charlotte, fresh out of Yale and newly married, is also in Tokyo and the same hotel. She too feels ignored and questioning of herself, as her inattentive photographer husband John seems to care more about his career than her. Charlotte is left to her own devices, yet can’t shake the instability and indecision of her life. Both jet lagged and struggling with insomnia, Bob and Charlotte meet one night in the hotel bar. Despite them being different in more ways than one, they begin to forge a friendship that opens their eyes to something more positive and worthwhile. Through their encounters, both of the humorous and heartfelt variety, and the deep bond that they form, Bob and Charlotte are able to face the challenges of life and consider that it actually be something wonderful if they look closer.
Sofia Coppola strikingly yet subtly directs and writes this wonderful movie, capturing an honesty and heartfelt story of two unlikely soul mates finding solace in each other’s company. Her rendering of their existences as troubled and searching is nicely complimented by a good dose of humour. It straddles the line between comedy and drama, without sacrificing any of the poignant or bittersweet angles of the tale. Coppola displays a quiet confidence and her measured approach with both her directing and script is notably transfixing. Loneliness and a feeling of not belonging are heightened by the culture shock of the Japanese setting and the visuals of large buildings that dwarf Bob and Charlotte. And talking of visuals, they are simply sublime and have real substance in framing the central duo as isolated and fish out of water. The lighting scheme, gold hues and often a certain blue, highlights both the melancholia of their situations and the often nighttime confessions that each shares along the way of their bond. A certain shimmer is found in the cinematography too, hinting at their may be a chance of hope for both the listless souls in Lost in Translation. And the way that Japan is used is gorgeous, utilizing the beauty and scope of the country to its advantage. Crucially and one of the instruments that really made me appreciate Lost in Translation, was that although an emotional feeling is generated between Bob and Charlotte, it doesn’t lead to a love affair. So many Hollywood films go for the obvious and expected when you have a film about two people unintentionally connecting, thankfully Lost in Translation doesn’t fall into that trap. An atmospheric and ambient soundtrack is the ideal companion to the film, soaking it in a layer of hope, escape and pathos.
The acting in Lost in Translation is a definite high point of an already impressive movie. Bill Murray turns in a restrained yet subtly expressive portrayal of tired loneliness and the want to experience something. Moving from deadpan comedy to sensitive depth, Murray is at some of his best as the sympathetic Bob, searching for something hopeful to come along. All it takes is just the slightest movement of his eyes and face, and you know all there is to know about the character, down to the fact that Murray plays him so stunningly. Equally as good is Scarlett Johansson, who despite only being 17 at the time of filming, contributed a mature and exquisitely subtle performance. Finding nuance, humour and melancholy in Charlotte, Johansson holds her own and is mesmerising to watch. What makes their portrayals so beautiful is the little moments of quietly suggesting thoughts and dreams, achieved with the most simple yet meaningful ways. The two boast a believable rapport with each other, discovering a platonic yet still caring need for the companionship to combat the alienation of their respective lives. Giovanni Ribisi, who previously narrated The Virgin Suicides, appears as Charlotte’s busy husband, whose hipster attitude and blatant lack of concern have you seeing why she wants to find something close to connection.
Evocative, soulful and charming, Lost in Translation is a triumph for both Sofia Coppola and main actors, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Together, they create a touching film about unexpectedly finding someone to relate too and escaping from the pressures of life while facing up to some of them.