This is the only film I truly love. It is the film that changed my life. So, it’s about time I finally reviewed it. Lost in Translation is an extremely profound, philosophical, cathartic experience disguised as a romantic comedy. It is a work of high art in every sense, a transcendental indie masterpiece. If you have ever been involved in a devastating breakup with someone you truly loved—or if you’ve been depressed to the point where you wanted to end your life—you will connect with this film. If you feel alone in any way, you will connect with it. It is transcendental.
In a stunning breakout performance, Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, a recent Yale grad who just got married—a decision she now highly regrets—and feels like life is falling apart. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an aging film star who’s going through a mid-life crisis, as well as his own marriage problems. Charlotte and Bob both end up on trips to Tokyo. What follows is a surreal connection between unlikely acquaintances. You can feel the romantic tension slowly build like electricity. And yet, their friendship is infinitely more than mere romance.
Both lead characters are emphatically lost—in every sense of the word. And in a city that feels infinitely vast, mysterious, and foreign, they find order in the chaos via each other. Artistically, the cinematography is breathtaking. Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winning script, meanwhile, is flawless. Thomas Mars’s soundtrack stars with well-curated indie tracks. The editing and mixing are flawless. And above all else, the acting is phenomenal. The two leads play their roles with a sense of authenticity to the point where you can feel their pain. I might add that this film, which some people consider a “romcom,” is absolutely hilarious too.
There is a sense of transcendence that perspires in the atmosphere of this work. It is ethereal. It is evanescent. It is subtle. And you might not even find yourself bewitched by it if you don’t watch the film attentively and with the categorical respect it commands of those who are passionate about film. Coppola’s screenplay has a sense of nuanced movements that gradually progress as viewers pick up on the intangibles of the lead character’s psyches, a sense of intimacy that lingers. And yet, somehow this ostensibly quintessential component of Lost in Translation isn’t even something you have to vibe with to enjoy the film. You can just kick back, watch passively, and enjoy its vibrant shots, its sense of humour (one that can only be acquired from a long, miserable life), and its aesthetic. The choice is yours!
Ultimately, Lost in Translation is one of the most influential, artistically dense films ever—and, whether you are just looking for a fun indie drama or a brilliant philosophical meditation, it can be whatever experience you want it to be. It is dynamic. And I couldn’t love this film more than I already do. I’ve seen it at least 30 times, I still see it several times per year, and it renews my love for life, my passion for art, and my belief in humanity and the world each time. Surely we all need some of that in 2020. Don’t miss out on this stunning magnum opus!
P.S. I don’t like the trailers for Lost in Translation, but this fan video for Phantogram’s wonderful song “Bill Murray” captures the film’s essence.