In Tokyo to shoot a whisky commercial, jaded movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) meets neglected wife Charlotte in a hotel. Bored with their lives and bemused by the city, they gradually fall for each other.
With cinemas dominated by underwhelming blockbusters and formulaic rom-coms, it's easy to become disillusioned with the state of the movies. Thank the almighty, then, for Lost In Translation, which in 102 wondrous minutes will restore your faith in the power of the medium.
This is a film exploring themes of fidelity, disillusionment and commercialism, but one in which you're never far from a belly laugh or a delicate tug of the heartstrings. Sofia Coppola showed huge potential with her first feature, The Virgin Suicides, but her follow-up represents a leap into the A-list of young talent.
Ironically for a piece partly concerned with breakdowns in communication, Coppola and her cast convey complex ideas brilliantly. Neither the heart-stopping ecstasy of new love, nor the mind-numbing agony of jet lag, nor the inspirational, life-affirming qualities of pop music are easy to evoke on celluloid, but the film addresses these and every issue with an eloquent simplicity.
The writer-director is also smart enough to pepper her screenplay with comic set-pieces in which Bill Murray can cut loose. Photo shoots, TV sets, hospital waiting rooms, golf courses and hotel gyms serve as backdrops against which Murray displays his comic genius. These crowd-pleasing moments fuel the audience's affection for the character (even if they occasionally patronise his Japanese hosts), so we're deeply emotionally involved when, understandably, he begins to lose his heart to the delectable Johansson.
The growing romance is portrayed with delicate beauty, including a breathtaking moment in - of all the hackneyed, overused settings - a karaoke lounge. Murray croons Roxy Music's hit More Than This, his eyes meet Johansson's and, in a single take, with no heavy-handed close-ups, the electric connection between the two characters is made clear. Like lightning captured in a bottle, it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
Switching effortlessly between laugh-out-loud comedy and tender romance, Lost In Translation is a triumph for all involved, both in front of and behind the camera.