Sofia Coppola won the screen play writing Oscar for Lost in Translation. She also directed Bill Murray and a nineteen-year-old Scarlette Johansson. Murray, Bob Harris, is a past his peak movie star in Japan working on a marketing campaign for Suntory whiskey. Johansson, Charlotte, is accompanying her husband, a photographer, on a project. The bulk of the film is set in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Two strangers in a strange land is the setup for this wonderful film.
I have done a lot of work travel by myself, sometimes I am lucky enough to travel with co-workers. I also took a weeklong solo trip to Denmark and Sweden a few years ago. Keeping myself occupied becomes a necessity even in places I have been to dozens of times. On work trips, you do everything in your power to get through them as quickly as possible. You fill your days to be as productive as possible. At the end of the day, you often find yourself eating alone at the bar with a drink or two. Sleep is often not as good as at home and the lack of routine pushes you further towards doing what you can to get home early. Idle time is also accompanied by loneliness.
My weeklong Scandanavian adventure was also filled with loneliness. Like a work trip, I ate alone and unfilled time was an emotional challenge. Trying to fill out my days with distractions was how I got through the trip. I averaged over ten miles a day of walking and even wore through my boots. Both of these realities are reflected in the characters of Bob and Charlotte. They get lucky and cross paths to help fill the downtime.
Bob and Charlotte develop a platonic relationship throughout the film with hints of possible romance that are shied away from in a believable manner. Through their learning about each other, we get rich character development. Using conversations we have all had at the beginning of all types of relationships it feels less like an interview or overt explanation and more natural. This is where Coppola is showing off her skills.
I connected with this film because of my experiences. Setting the film in Japan is meant to evoke more not normal habitat, but even if you have only traveled shorter distances from home you get similar feelings. This was Sofia Coppola’s most successful film and she tried to recapture it with 2020’s On the Rocks, which brought back Bill Murray and a younger woman, Rashida Jones. The newer film shifts to a father-daughter dynamic but cannot capture the essence of Lost in Translation. I recommend watching this film at home, if you try to do it on a work trip your loneliness will only grow.