Lost in Translation - An affair with the feels

Movie review on a nice night

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I watched Lost in Translation (2003) for the first time ever today, and I really liked it. The plot is that two Americans meet in an entirely unfamiliar setting in Tokyo, Japan, and find meaning in something strangely peaceful. Both are at different stages of their lives, dealing with their own personal crises, but somehow manage to find solace in each other's presence.

Spoilers ahead.

Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a typical Bill Murray character: deadpan, sardonic, and an actor tired of people in general who has been sent to Japan to film whiskey commercials and appear on talk shows. Scarlett Johannson plays Charlotte, a philosophy graduate whose search for meaning has led her with her husband (a photographer) to Japan, where she's still lost. Very typical characters, nothing extraordinary, but the film's strength lies in its ability to convey meaning very slowly. The main characters don't even see each other a good ten minutes into the film, but it's ultimately worth it.

Bob struggles with the culture shock, and so does Charlotte. They are both also heavily jetlagged, as is evident from the numerous times they ask each other if they've had a good sleep. Bob is twenty-five years into his marriage, and is on an unsolicited break from his wife. Charlotte is having misgivings about being married to a celebrity photographer who doesn't really understand her. And on a continent far, far from home, they run into each other in the midst of chaos, a pair of guests who've never experienced Japan before, or new feelings towards anyone.

When Charlotte sends Bob a drink at the hotel, Bob realizes something that he's wanted to realize for a while; he can be goofy around this person and not get treated a certain type of way. As my friend pointed out, Charlotte does not care one bit that Bob is a very famous actor with his face plastered all over billboards even in Tokyo, which is a refreshing change for Bob. No, she's looking for something that Bob is looking for too - a companion in a strange land. We see Bob and Charlotte bond over karaoke among strangers mispronouncing mundane things, and developing into... what exactly? That is unclear, but we see both characters warming up to each other. Bob talks to Charlotte about the drastic changes that come with becoming a parent. Charlotte opens up about her identity crisis, her uncertain future with her husband. She finds herself being completely fine with having an older man by her side, effectively chilling out. Bob is also struggling with having to accept that both of his own kids are getting used to him not being around, which he speaks about briefly.

One of the most fascinating parts of the movie is how it uses crowds. If you've watched any modern drama, you'll notice how crisp and focused scenes are with the protagonists. Lost in Translation does the exact opposite. Some of the most significant scenes in the film contain a bunch of Japanese people walking on streets and partying and just basically being in the frame. The movie uses a lot of skylines and billboards, and it uses them rather well. By the end of the film, we see that Bob and Charlotte have found very warm solace in each other. But the film must end at some point, as all good things do.

There is an important scene at the very end of the film where Bob whispers something to Charlotte before kissing her goodbye forever. To me, this is the most poignant shot of the film, and is aptly left open to interpretation, again, perhaps, a subtle allusion to the title. A great film, a bit sad, but overall fantastic.


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