A Movie Changed My Day: Lost in Translation

Nine years later.

Lost in Translation came out in 2003, and I just saw this movie. Some flick fan I am!

We all get around to some of the bigger, more impactful movies at our own pace. I also completed the first two Godfather films this past month as a part of the”Watch every Oscar winner for Best Picture” challenge on my Life List.

Lost in Translation just so happened to be the one movie that bumped almost every other movie I loved out of their top spots. With the exception of American Beauty, the romantic drama/comedy (it really had it all), is now my second favorite movie of all time. Starring Bill Murray, a young Scarlett Johansson, and directed by Sofia Coppola, the movie pierced the sensitive spots inside of me like a bullet. 


There are so many themes in this movie. Love, loneliness and aging are just a few. The premise? Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a super famous actor who is aging in a celebrity world where youth reigns. He is in Tokyo for business when he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) a young woman whose own life is bogged down and serviced to the traveling needs of her new husband. More or less bound by the hotel, Charlotte runs into Bob in the hotel bar and continues to do so. Without acting fan on him, they develop a relationship that starts off sweet and friendly, with the exchange of witty jokes and half smirks that suggest understanding and comfort, although they know virtually nothing of each other.

Over the course of the movie, Bob starts to adapt to Charlotte; he enjoys human interaction for the first time in years. His wife, as he explains to Charlotte, is more concerned with material things (…oh, women), like the library’s new carpet color than any emotional context with her husband. His failing marriage and distance from his children is (assuming by what I gather from American society) draining the 20-plus-year marriage to the point of near divorce.

There is a scene when Charlotte invites Bob out to a club in Tokyo with some new friends she met during her stay. They sing karaoke, bar hop and feed off of each other’s (in the moment) happiness to a point that it could make the viewer cry. The extent of each of their true emptiness begins to feels so real. It is almost too much to watch. For once, the duo who have almost nothing in common are able to come together with the idea that they are both lost in the world; they are lost in Tokyo, dealing with an enormous culture barrier, but moreover, lost in their own lives. There is a subtly in the two character’s failing marriages. We know it is happening, but instead of dwelling on it- the movie lets us focus more on the developing relationships, built on this common ground.

The movie somewhat proves that no matter the location change, as far and wide as Tokyo, nothing cannot supplement severe loneliness like love can. If Lost in Translation showed me anything (fictional or not), it is that travel is only the first step in attempting to soul search. It takes more than just relocating. It takes going balls deep into a city; it takes meeting people and listening to yourself, adapting or not adapting to culture, in order to realize that maybe things home are not so bad, or perhaps, they are. 

There is an eeriness in this movie that is the idea that people, no matter the stature or stacked bank account, can be seriously unhappy. There is a hopefulness in this movie that gave me, and likely other viewers, the strength to hold on when everything around them seems wrong. There is enough depth in this movie to convince a soul-searcher that there is enough land in the world that has yet to be traveled and discovered, yet to be used as inspiration, with all the possibilities of one day finding yourself truly.

If you have not seen the movie, please, please, please, sit with some wine and take in its beauty and sadness. The story is unmatched, and I foresee it to be for years to come.


– “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”
-“You’ll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

30 thoughts on “A Movie Changed My Day: Lost in Translation

  1. Don’t feel bad, I just watched this movie for the first time about a month ago as well. I adored it. Plus, Bill Murray… enough said. I also had never seen “Being John Malkovich ” which is what Netflix kept suggesting to me. It’s Another great thought provoking oldie that I just now discovered.

  2. I live in Tokyo, but I really disliked this movie!

    It’s just not my style. I found it pompous and extremely boring!

    If you’re interested in Tokyo though, please visit my blog.

  3. Very well considered rumination on this wonderful film. When asked what I liked about Lost In Translation, I always fell back on the cinematography (wonderful), soundtrack (awesome), and performances (very subtle and sensitive). Maybe I haven’t wanted to think about the meaning of the film in real words, but you expressed it nicely. The final scene between the main characters in which you hear the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just like Honey” instead of their last words to eachother just knocks me out.
    I lived in Japan as a child in the 70s and found much of the movie’s observations to be accurate to my experiences there.

  4. Oh Lebeau- your review makes me want to give it another chance- I liked nothing about this film- found it exhaustingly paced, self-conscious and uninteresting- and I like both stars- it reminds me of The Squid and the Whale- which, while more alive -suffered from the same ‘run on-aren’t we natural’ talk and dialog that Aaron Sorkin’s pretentious The Newsroom suffers from.

  5. I should give it another try as well. This movie, as well as Eternal Sunshine, would be on my “worst movies” list. But I realize I am in the very small minority on that one. So I should give it another chance. Thanks for reminding me and…even getting me a bit exciting about giving it another shot.

  6. This is a very well written review that makes me want to watch the movie right away (don’t know how I missed it, though I heard so much about it). I am going to make sure I watch it before the weekend is over (sit down with some wine of course! ) :)

  7. I love your words. I love how you described those seemingly ineffable over-arching themes and emotions that draw me into this movie time and again. We are lost. I am certainly lost but I find comfort in knowing that I will travel soon for the long term and that I’ll come just a bit closer to finding myself.

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