Lost in Translation is a film I am very confused about. I’m not quite sure what to think of it, and yet I have many different thoughts and opinions as to what I thought worked and what didn’t. Unfortunately for me, and ultimately for you as well, being confused about a film doesn’t allow for me to write a great review. Or at least, I don’t think it does. For all I know, this’ll work out really well.
The plot follows two people who are visiting Japan for very different reasons. One of them is Bill Murray, playing a failing actor named Bob Harris. He’s in Japan so that he can make two million dollars just for shooting commercials advertising whisky. He’s got a wife and a couple of kids back in America who miss him–he seems miserable in his own right. He’s alone in a different county, where he doesn’t understand the language, and doesn’t know anybody.
Thankfully, while Bob is sitting at a bar, Scarlett Johansson’s character, Charlotte, appears. After some time, they become friends. She’s married to a photographer on assignment in Japan, and decided it would be fun to tag along. He leaves for a few days, allowing her to get closer to Bob Harris.
And that’s just about all that happens; Bob and Charlotte do things together in Japan, things that normal tourists would do. They eat at different Japanese restaurants, go to various tourist locations, and most importantly, talk a lot. That’s what they do the most of, meaning that their relationship feels natural and realistic, while we get to learn about each character in great depth.
If there is one great strength that Lost in Translation has, it’s in the way it makes its characters relatable. Maybe not to everyone, as we’ve all had different experiences, but to the majority. Most of us have, at one point in time, felt incredibly alone in the world, just like Bob. Another large portion of the audience will also have felt unsure of what to do with their lives, just like Charlotte. And, the vast majority know what it’s like to fall in love, just like both characters.
And even if you haven’t had any of those experiences, I’m sure you can at least imagine what it would be like to be placed in that position. And, if you still can’t do that, the characters are likable enough for you to empathize with them. This also happens due to how well both lead actors play their roles. Seriously though, the characters are what drive this film, as the story isn’t all that interesting, and it isn’t exactly something I would call “incredibly funny”.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it has its moments when I was laughing, but these moments were too few for it to be called a great comedy. I mean, as a drama, it works fine, and should likely be judged as that, but I just didn’t find it all that humorous. Although, if you look at it as a drama, that should mean that it should have a compelling story, which Lost in Translation does not possess.
The main plot of Lost in Translation is actually just a series of somewhat connected events that serve only to develop the characters. The narrative isn’t something that makes you want to keep watching, because there isn’t a whole lot of flow to it. At least, it didn’t seem like it when watching it. We are given a sense of time, with Bob only staying for a week, but that’s about it. Days just continue to go by, with characters living them about as normally as you would expect them to. There isn’t much surprising about it, plot twists don’t really exist, and the entire thing is wrapped up with an ambiguous ending.
I don’t actually have a problem with ambiguity to end the film, and I especially don’t when it leaves us wondering about the characters. That’s what happens here. The ending doesn’t bring much closure to the lives of the characters, but it doesn’t have to. You can draw your own conclusions, and decide how it ends for yourself. In a film where the story isn’t all that important, except to facilitate the meeting and development of the characters, this ending works, and in this case, works really well.
Lost in Translation didn’t blow me away, but it did have some of the more relatable characters I’ve seen in a while. That’s just about all that I saw that was worthy of great praise though. Well-developed, fleshed-out. and acted characters that appear in an uninteresting story. For a comedy, it wasn’t that funny, but I do like to look at it more as a drama than anything else. The conclusion fit well though, and watching it isn’t a total bore–just an unmemorable one.