Occasionally come along tales told through the format of film that capture us completely within the narrative. This is one such film. Bill Murray ("Groundhog Day") plays Bob Harris, a faltering "A list" American movie star who arrives in Japan to make a whiskey commercial for the bargain price of two million. Meanwhile his wife mails him fabric samples and urgent fax messages reminding him to pick the best color (any color, as long as it matches her choice). Staying in the same fancy hotel as him is the young wife of a photographer. While he's on assignment in Tokyo, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson, "Ghost World") is expected to just stay in her hotel, along with her worries. "I don't feeling anything," she lets out to a friend, "I don't know who I married." As it happens, both Bob and Charlotte share not only the lust to sip more out of life, but also a sense of insomnia. Of course they meet up and sparks fly, but perhaps not the way you'd expect them to. Their encounter develops into a friendship and that friendship, in turn, intensifies into something more. It twirls into something so special that it could easily be "lost in translation" should words be applied.My expectations have a tendency of being very high, especially for films that appear to be so acclaimed during "prestigious" festivals, so I often find myself in an awkward spot of disappointment. From LOST IN TRANSLATION I expected terrific acting, character development, storytelling and an emotional ground. I didn't expect an amazing plot, but to make up for it, I was expecting an amazing journey.

Director Sofia Coppola does a remarkable job in transforming us to the land of that journey, which happens to be Japan. The scenery that makes up Tokyo is just so spectacular and impressive. It is a city that sparkles with technological advancements, yet carries a certain aroma of the ancient ways about it. But the core of that journey is not the action, or scenery - it is the human experience. Coppola paints a vivid and extremely personal portrait, assisted by some admirable performances. I had a soft spot for Bill Murray, but here he outshines himself. Both he and Scarlett Johansson express so much by doing so little. They become real people in front of our very eyes. They are people who think, feel, share secrets

Lost In Translation is out September 18, 2003.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.