When I was 26, I spent a summer in Ireland. I took photography classes, and, when I wasn’t photographing or studying, I was trying to take in as much of the country as I could. The problem was that I was lonely, homesick, and feeling very alone. I was sad to be by myself, and was missing home very much.
Three weeks into my stay, I met someone that was, surprisingly, from the same area of the United States that I was. This person was also studying at the same Irish university that I was, and, as soon as we met, we became fast friends. We traveled the country together, ate meals together; basically did everything during the rest of our stay in Ireland – together. Our friendship became confused, and, at the end of it all, despite saying that we could, if we wanted, just stay in Ireland; create a new life and create a new future, it was best that we got back to our old lives and fit back into our old habits. We were two people that happened to bump into one another while away from our homes and at a point in both of our lives where nothing made sense, or what sense we had left was confused by directions we never intended to make, yet we did.
We were two people who were right for each other. The problem, of course, was that we were in the wrong place and the wrong time.
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is visiting Tokyo to film a whiskey commercial for Japanese television. Bob is a burnt out, aging, tired actor from the US. His marriage hasn’t been the best for the last decade, and he is in the beginnings of a mid-life crisis. Bob, not happy with where he is in his life, makes another shameful decision by “selling out” and filming a commercial in Japan. Bob is tired, lonely, and jet-lagged.
Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) is a recently married young woman fresh out of college. She comes to Tokyo with her husband, who is a famous up-and-coming photographer while he is on assignment. She is lonely, and tired, and jet-lagged. Her husband constantly forgets that she is with him, as he is so busy being a hot photographer and his wife doesn’t fit into his lifestyle.
One night Charlotte meets Bob in the hotel bar, and they start to talk, find things in common, and, ultimately, become friends.
Lost in Translation follows the blossoming friendship that develops between two people who are tired of making mistakes in their lives, and are just looking for someone to accept them for who they are, enjoy the company, and conversation, that they have to offer.
The film is a series of small scenes; vignettes, watching Bob and Charlotte converse, walk, discover, visit, and communicate like two old friends who are meeting for the first time. We are only allowed to see small snippets of their travels; much like people in real life would recollect things. When we think back to our past experiences, it is often small instances of time, seconds, or fleeting moments that we remember. Sofia Coppola’s direction reflects these instances of recurrence. We remember what is most important to us that that time, and at the time we think back. Because of this particular style, we are sharing the most intimate and important pieces of the friendship that exists between these two people; when they first meet, when they first laugh, and, in this case, when they first begin to question their friendship, what it means, and if there is something more to it than just being friends.
Coppola doesn’t cheese out and make these two strong, yet flawed individuals fall in love and have a storybook romance. Instead, she treats them like real people; people who feel awkward, saddened, tired, and confused about their feelings. These people have families and spouses and lives back home, so all these feelings they are having exist for these brief, few days that they are together. Coppola is smart enough to make them *not* have an affair, because to these two people, it is more than sex, or being physical. There is an emotional bond, or connection, between them. They are finding they are compatible with each other, despite their ages, or backgrounds.
Bob and Charlotte are two people who are right for each other. The only problem, of course, is that it is the wrong place, and the wrong time.
Lost in Translation is about quiet moments in life; about two people who meet, and talk, and spend time together, and talk some more. They develop a friendship that exists because they are venerable and alone, and they need something, someone, to hold onto. An embrace of the familiar, despite it being with a stranger.
Three years ago, I spent a summer in Ireland. I connected with someone, and we shared some moments, and conversations, that will last until the end of time. But we knew that no matter how many times we said “We don’t have to go home. We can stay here and never leave, and start our lives anew”, we knew that it was the magic of this foreign place making us say those words. No matter how badly we may have wanted to stay, our real lives; our real mistakes and joys and those who love us, were waiting for us to return. Bob and Charlotte met and developed a friendship that will last well past when they are dead and gone. It really doesn’t matter what was learned from their connection; the real importance is that at that particular place and time, they awakened some sort of awareness in themselves that they hadn’t had before.
At the end of the film, Bob whispers something into Charlotte’s ear. We, the viewers, are not allowed to hear what is said. We, as the viewers, shouldn’t be allowed to hear. What was said is between the two of them; taking what was whispered, and hearing with their hearts, and following in any way they seem fit. Coppola is asking us to come up with our own answers as to what was said. Each person will have a different idea of what he whispered; because, obviously, every person is different, and all of our different experiences bring us different answers.
Lost in Translation is a remarkable film that studies two human beings and how they handle the need for companionship, love, trust, friendship, and, most importantly, understanding.
For me, this is one of the greatest films of the last ten years. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.