A wayward friendship made in passing in a similar manner to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, Cho’s slightly dickish but quietly wounded Jin and Richardson’s similarly hurt but enthusiastic Casey meet by chance on a smoke break.
Though the film’s focus lies with the modern architecture of Columbus, Kogonada’s film highlights the importance of art – as a pastime, a career, and a connection to another person. Casey and Jin connect through the former’s love of architecture, Jin’s initial dismissal of the subject making way for enthusiasm as he sees what it means to her. He connects with her over this subject that he doesn’t really care about in a way that he never seemed to with his father, while Casey gets to educate someone in a passion that she’s never fully been able to indulge.
The two have great chemistry as platonic friends who come to care deeply for each other, and turn the film from what could have been a cold montage of pretty images into a moving piece about how much a shared interest can inform a relationship. That said, Columbus is a really pretty film, with a surprising amount of passion. We get to see the town from both Casey and Jin’s points of view, as Kogonada reuses shots of particular buildings and locations to present what each means to different people.
The town transforms under Elisha Christian’s lens, the mundane becoming mythic and beautiful, as it did for Casey when she discovered her enthusiasm for architecture. It’s immaculate filmmaking, and speaks to video essayist and first-time director Kogonada’s understanding of the medium.
Kogonada’s debut Columbus is extremely assured – beautiful, pristine work that is deliberate in its pacing, artfully and precisely framed in every moment, soulful and quietly moving without being overly sentimental.
CAST: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Erin Allegretti
SYNOPSIS: A Korean-born man (Cho) finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. The man meets a young woman (Richardson) who wants to stay in Columbus with her mother, a recovering addict, instead of pursuing her own dreams.