Scarlett Johanson and Bill Murray are two onscreen actors that you can’t picture working together until seeing them on screen. Then, it clicks.

The highlights of this film lie in its intimate moments and ability to weave through a complex dynamic between two people, who are both at a place in their lives in which they feel like they are settling. Johanson and Murray, but especially Murray, both achieve a performance in which neither seems as if they are performing. There is a controlled, natural tension between the two characters, as the viewer and the subjects both seem equally confused. 

Tokyo is a strange setting to place two people who feel stuck. It’s quite a peculiar choice, but it makes all the difference. The whole reason why these two characters end up in Tokyo is because Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is accompanying her celebrity photographer husband on a business trip, while Bob (Bill Murray) is shooting a commercial for a whisky brand. These are not lucrative reasons for being in Tokyo. Their placement in such a city mirrors how each feels about their life: directionless. The connection Charlotte, who just graduated college, and Bob, who has been married for 25-years, is unlike any other. Contrary to many friendships, it is not bonded by mutual interests or experiences or friends. Their intimate connection is strengthened by each other’s constant inner conflict with feelings of displaced loneliness and emptiness.

The cinematography in Lost in Translation tells the same story. The dark tones of the hotel Bob and Charlotte both stay at contrast with the lightness of the Tokyo streets, as well as Charlotte’s pink underwear and occasional wig. At the end of the film, when both characters must depart from each other, the colors also meet in the middle, as Bob and Charlotte have their final moment in the wake of a sunset. 

While the plot of Lost in Translation is quite simple, it is its portrayal of feelings that go unsaid but are expressed nevertheless, that make this film delicate. I have never seen a film that ties a bow so neatly on a package of scrambled contents. Hats off to Sofia Coppola for this one.

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