Lost in Translation (2003) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

  • Middle-aged American movie star Bob Harris is in Tokyo to film a personal endorsement Suntory whiskey ad solely for the Japanese market. He is past his movie star prime, but his name and image still have enough cachet for him to have gotten this lucrative $2 million job. He has an unsatisfying home life where his wife Lydia follows him wherever he goes - in the form of messages and faxes - for him to deal with the minutiae of their everyday lives, while she stays at home to look after their kids. Staying at the same upscale hotel is fellow American, twenty-something recent Yale Philosophy graduate Charlotte, her husband John, an entertainment still photographer, who is on assignment in Japan. As such, she is largely left to her own devices in the city, especially when his job takes him out of Tokyo. Both Bob and Charlotte are feeling lost by their current situations, which are not helped by the cultural barriers they feel in Tokyo, those cultural barriers extending far beyond just not knowing the language. After a few chance encounters in the hotel, they end up spending much of their time hanging out together, each helping the other deal with their feelings of loss in their current lives. The friendship that develops between the two, which is not always a bumpy-free one, may be just for this specific place and time, but it may also have long lasting implications.

  • A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris and a conflicted newlywed, Charlotte, meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful.

  • Bob Harris is an American film actor, far past his prime. He visits Tokyo to appear in commercials, and he meets Charlotte, the young wife of a visiting photographer. Bored and weary, Bob and Charlotte make ideal if improbable traveling companions. Charlotte is looking for "her place in life," and Bob is tolerating a mediocre stateside marriage. Both separately and together, they live the experience of the American in Tokyo. Bob and Charlotte suffer both confusion and hilarity due to the cultural and language differences between themselves and the Japanese. As the relationship between Bob and Charlotte deepens, they come to the realization that their visits to Japan, and one another, must soon end. Or must they?

  • He's doing a commercial, parlaying his fifteen minutes of movie stardom. She's just graduated from college, recently married, and tagged along with her husband, a photographer on assignment. He's married with children, but he's never home. She's supporting her husband, but has no idea what she wants to do with her own life. Both are searching for the meaning of their lives, looking at the situation from different points of view. A person's lifetime is filled with self examination. Why am I here? What am I doing? Is this as good as it gets? Bob and Charlotte find each other fulfilling certain needs. Charlotte needs Bob's attention and humor, and Bob needs someone he can talk to (Bob "talks" with his wife, but they are not really talking). Bob helps Charlotte by answering her questions regarding life and direction, while Charlotte helps Bob by reminding him how much he loves his children and his wife.

  • Americans abroad, almost innocents. Charlotte, fresh out of Yale with a degree in philosophy, is in Tokyo with her husband, a photographer whose work takes him away that week. She's adrift, her soul on ice. Bob, mid-50s, a semi-retired movie star, is there to make $2 million doing a whisky ad. At home are a wife and young children, but he's jaded and melancholy. Both are jet-lagged, and Tokyo's culture and language push them further off kilter. When they meet in the hotel bar and spend their free time together for a few days, possibilities arise amidst the losses. Their friendship becomes an experience: does he have something to teach; can she reconnect him to life?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Bob, a 55 year old, looking bored, oblivious, is a still famous actor who comes to Tokyo to shoot a commercial for $2 million. As soon he arrives and is greeted by a bunch of smiling overly friendly Japanese crew, he gets a fax from his wife Lydia, 45 years old, reminding him that he forgot his son's birthday. The next morning, he spots Charlotte, 25 years old, in the elevator full of expressionless Japanese people. Bob, feeling totally oblivious, shoots a whiskey commercial.

    Charlotte is accompanying her husband John, who is 30 years old and a constantly busy photographer, who doesn't pay much attention to her. He goes to Tokyo to shoot for a few days. She feels sad, lost and alone in a luxurious hotel.

    After a few days, Bob and Charlotte have a pleasant short conversation in a hotel bar. For the next few days they briefly meet, whether accidentally or on purpose. Their sympathy for one another grows.

    Charlotte invites Bob to join her and friends for a party. They all have a great time together. Their understanding of each other's feelings deepens. Charlotte reveals to him her fear of not knowing what to do with her life, he tells her about the scary and troubling parts of his marriage. After going back to his room, Bob tries to share his emotions about the party with his wife over phone, but she remains cold and talks about her daily routine.

    The next day, Charlotte travels to Kyoto and Bob appears as a guest in a popular but meaningless Japanese show. Still desperate about his appearance in that show, he finds himself again in the hotel bar. Charlotte is not there. The singer from a hotel approaches him and the two have a brief affair. Charlotte is disappointed about the affair the next day. They spend a terrible lunch together.

    The last evening he admits that he wishes to stay in Tokyo with her. They both know their wish is just a romantic fantasy. They stay without words, holding each other's hand, and kiss gently goodbye.

    Before he leaves the next morning, he calls to see her again. They say bye without a kiss, both embarrassed, not knowing exactly how to react. She walks away. On the way to the airport, he spots her from the car. He rushes toward her. They embrace warmly. He whispers to her. They kiss gently but passionately and say goodbye. He observes the city from the car, feeling happy.

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