Lost in Translation (2003) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Lost in Translation (2003) Directed by Sofia Coppola. With Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.


Most of us know the feeling of landing in a foreign country where everything is familiar yet completely different. The language barrier gets in the way of the most mundane of tasks, yet standing back from the frustration there’s a comedy inherent to the little misunderstandings. Writer and director, Sofia Coppola serves up the transcendent story of an unlikely relationship gaining traction in an overcrowded city in which it feels like only two people exist.

The film is striking on many levels. Not only for the silent depth that is achieved through the characters, but also for the way in which Tokyo feels like an alternate universe to us, the viewers and the central characters of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson…in that it prohibits them from being themselves with anyone but each other.

Murray is perfectly cast as a reluctant US actor in Japan on a lucrative business trip to shoot a whiskey advert. Johannson is in town with her neglectful photographer husband (Geovanni Ribisi) when their paths cross. Murray’s uniquely sardonic delivery is a perfect counterpoint to the dizzying noise of Tokyo and makes for some funny scenes. Johannson too, is a delight as Charlotte and as their relationship develops there’s a real sense of the excitement and restrained longing bursting to get out. It’s one of the great cinematic examples of that stomach-flipping, tantalising feeling of being so close to love yet so far away.

Coppola’s direction is mature and measured. Her movie is funny, yet subtle and thoughtful. Once the credits roll you feel like you’ve been to Tokyo and back and that maybe the best place to find ourselves is a place we feel completely lost.


About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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10 Responses to Lost in Translation (2003) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. tokyo5 says:

    You liked this movie? Seriously?
    I hated it!
    “Ramen Girl” was kinda similar but much better…my post about it:

    • garethrhodes says:

      You hated the film, that’s fair enough, but it genuinely surprises me that anyone would be surprised to find that someone else loved it. I watched it twice within 24 hours. It made a positive impact on me. Kevin Shields’ music, the subtle nuances in the performances, fused with humour and a sense of other worldliness. I wouldn’t dream of giving it anything other than 5/5.

      • tokyo5 says:

        >it genuinely surprises me that anyone would be surprised to find that someone else loved it.

        No offense intended…but it does surprise me that anyone at all would like it. In fact, it surprises me that a movie studio agreed to make it.

        To be honest, when it was new and I saw the previews, I suspected that it would be boring. I only watched it (on DVD, not at a theater!) because it was filmed in Tokyo.

        It was worse than I expected.

        > It made a positive impact on me.

        That’s good. Can’t imagine how, though.

        >Kevin Shields’ music

        Isn’t it generic artsy movie background music? Are there actual songs on a soundtrack for this film?

        ,>the subtle nuances in the performances

        Too subtle. The plot, too, is subtle. (Actually, I’d use the word “pointless”).

        >fused with humour

        Actually, I think Bill Murray is overrated. His humor has never made me even chuckle.
        (The Coppola Family (including Nicholas Cage) are overrated too.

        >I wouldn’t dream of giving it anything other than 5/5.

        What’s the lowest? “1”? I’ll give it a 1.5

        As I said, I hope my comment doesn’t upset you. I just honestly can’t believe that anyone likes this movie…especially that much!

      • tokyo5 says:

        >you have caused no upset whatsoever. The contrary, you have contributed to this thread, and for that I am grateful.

        Oh, thank you. I, also, am interested in hearing opinions different from mine.

        I like movies a lot. Maybe I have a different taste in movies than you…but I am following your blog because I like reading your impressions.

  2. Paul S says:

    Eloquently written and a wonderful take on one of my favourite movies of all-time.Watching Lost In Translation is like being in a constant state of bliss.
    I love Bill Murray’s whisper to Scarlett at the end. I love the fact that I do not know what he said. It keeps me coming back to this film again…and again…and again.

    • tokyo5 says:

      >one of my favourite movies of all-time.


      • garethrhodes says:

        tokyo5, you have caused no upset whatsoever. The contrary, you have contributed to this thread, and for that I am grateful. We all see the world differently, and difference of opinion should be embraced. I like that we can remain respectful without resorting to petty insults. Lost in Translation is a film you describe as “hating”. It happens to be a film I loved. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to change each other’s minds on that, nor should be aspire to. Thank you for dropping by, again.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much, Paul. Great to hear from you. I agree wholeheartedly, the film is like a great dream that you don’t want to wake up from. I’ve thought about it a lot, since seeing it. That’s a good point you make about the whisper, it adds that layer of mystery and keeps the relationship open and timeless. Thank you very much for commenting.

  3. I’ve added this one to my list to rent…thanks! ~Sherry

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