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Columbus: A Thoughtful Film That Focuses on the Art of Growing Up

February 5, 2018




Columbus is charming film that features stirring cinematography, assured direction, and likable lead performances from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson. Director/writer Kogonada does a fine job telling a story about moving forward while showcasing the architecture of Columbus, Indiana. Columbus could’ve easily been a self-indulgent “indie” that features dialogue you only hear in movies, and static shots you only see in independent films. However, the static shots are framed around fantastic modernist architecture and the dialogue rings true because there is an actual reason for it. I can see the allure of a city like Columbus and the fact that it brings together two soulful people who are in very different stages of their life plays true. Kogonada has always come across as a deep thinking video essayist (they are very good) and you can tell he took his time with Columbus in order to make it as unique as the architecture. The film has many influences (Linklater, Anderson, Ozu, Bergman) but nothing feels overly copied and instead the walking-and-talking feels organic.


Columbus centers around the meeting and eventual friendship of two very different people. Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a 19-year old high school graduate who stays in Columbus because she is worried about her mom having a drug relapse. She works in a library, frets constantly about her mom, and hangs out with a slightly older friend Gabriel (Rory Culkin) who indulges her in conversations that I never would’ve had when I was 19. One day, she meets Jin (John Cho) and the two hit it off quickly due to their mutual indecisiveness and fear of moving forward due to parental woes.

Jin is in town because his famous scholar father collapsed while in town to give a speech at the local university. Due to the father’s induced coma and weak state, Jin is stuck in the town and can’t return to his soul-draining job in Seoul, Korea. He is stuck in a holding pattern due to lack of drive and parent issues that have stopped him from pursuing his ambitions. His meeting with Casey was fortuitous because they push each other forward due to their parental issues and intelligence. Throughout their several meetings, they get to the core of their issues and push each other onward via arguments, agreements and late night talks.


What I loved most about Columbus is how it doesn’t shy away from what it is. Kogonada is very clear when discussing his influences and he knows that there is a specific aesthetic and look to his debut film that can remind people of other films. I’ve always found it refreshing when directors embrace their influences and are able to make films that have their own personality and style. There have been many films that copy-and-paste their influences and they feel lifeless and stock. Columbus found a way to showcase architecture organically and I 100% believe that someone like Casey would invest herself in the modernist architecture as a way to find meaning and control in her life. Thus, she would take a new acquaintance on a tour because it’s what she knows and can control.

Columbus is a very good film and if you are looking for something that is thoughtful, patient and smart you will dig it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2018 9:58 am

    Hadn’t heard about this one. Thanks for the recommendation.

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