Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language & drug references
John Cho as Jin Lee
Haley Lu Richardson as Casey
Parker Posey as Eleanor
Michelle Forbes as Maria
Rory Culkin as Gabriel
When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) finds himself stranded in Columbus, Ind., a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many significant modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. As their intimacy develops, Jin and Casey explore both the town and their own conflicted emotions.
I remember hearing a lot about Columbus before watching, mainly that it stars John Cho, is about architecture, and was visually stunning. I wasn’t quite sure how into it I would be however, but it turns out to be fantastic and I kind of loved it.
Columbus is a rather simple yet beautiful movie. It follows an unconventional friendship between two characters who are having a crisis in their lives as they reminisce about their lives, talk about architecture, and get to know each other. You care about the characters because of how grounded they are, every character in the movie is fully realised and feels lived in. The narrative is quite layered despite its simplicity. It’s a very calm and centred film, the movie is mostly just people walking around town and going about their lives. It’s fairly plotless and captures the subtle moments of day to day life, while managing to not be mundane (at least I didn’t find it to be that way). It’s also very dialogue heavy, mostly with the conversations between the two lead characters. While I know not everyone will be into it, I found the dialogue interesting and if a scene of dialogue doesn’t advance plot or make a thematic point, then it adds something to the characterisations. There are lots of talks about architecture as it is a very present part of the plot, and it actually does well at serving as a bridge to connect the two main characters. I also found myself being quite invested in the architecture side of the movie despite not knowing a lot about it. Part of that is because it’s clearly a passion for these characters, and that is so believably captured here. The movie is very slow, which will turn off some people especially those not as interested in the plot and characters. It takes its time with its characters and sometimes just lets a scene play out and breathe, really adding to the subtle yet strong atmosphere throughout.
The acting is great from everyone, but it mainly comes down to the two excellent central performances from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson. The two characters have a lot of chemistry as their relationship grows, and I enjoyed every second they had onscreen together. They captured their characters incredibly well, they were very much subtle performances, yet very convincing and believable.
This is the first film from director Kogonada, and this is a fantastic debut for him. First of all, with what this movie is known for: this movie has gorgeous and riveting cinematography, perfectly shot throughout. All of it is beautifully composed and tranquil. Every frame is composed with care and attention, and the camera doesn’t once feel invasive of the action onscreen. Almost every shot is completely stationary, yet is put together so well that the shots feel lively, even in the slowest of moments. The shots linger too, often allowing us to absorb every frame at our own pace. The subtle score from Hammock which accompanies the movie gives this warm melancholic feeling. All this comes together to create this dreamlike atmosphere, in fact this has to be one of the most atmospheric movies I’ve seen. The carefully framed and beautiful shots of architectures and landscapes paired with quiet conversations create this introspective and peaceful vibe.
Columbus might not be for everyone, with the slow deliberate pace and the dialogue heavy focus. However the performances (especially John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson), and beautiful cinematography, as well as the characters had me on board the entire time. I was quite invested with what was happening and the atmosphere had me entranced. I do think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Kogonada makes next.