Directed by: Kogonada

Written by: Kogonada

Starring: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Michelle Forbes, Rory Culkin, Parker Posey

Rating: [4/5]

Appreciation of art by the average person usually comes in the visual media and literature as it contains stories captivating audiences. However, when looking at art in a broader sense, it also extends to the everyday structures we utilize where individuals took the time to piece them together with their own level of distinction. Columbus focuses on architecture as it allows two individuals stuck in a tumultuous life moment to process their emotions. 

Attending to his father who has recently fallen into a coma in Columbus, Ohio, Jin (John Cho) meets local librarian Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), as she battles with the struggles of potentially moving on with her life and pursuing her own dreams. With both of them at a focal point in their lives, they find comfort in the other stranger. 

Experiencing the work of someone incredibly refreshing always strikes a level of excitement because of what it adds to an already luscious art form. Kogonada is no different as he helps craft something incredibly poignant and beautiful in his feature film directorial debut. Something that requires patience and allows the dialogue of two characters to create a feeling of comfort despite the stress they each currently experience in life. Such a welcomed voice in the world of filmmaking seeing as he spent most of his early career analyzing films, it only makes sense when given the opportunity he would create something as awe-inspiring as this feature. 

Honing in its focus on architecture as an art form very much makes this a unique story seeing as the average person never really pays much mind to the intricacies of this vocation. Buildings serve as shelter and something to mostly be inside of rather than admiring from the outside. Sure, you may get some of that in the larger metropoles where behemoth buildings line the skyline but in smaller cities, it goes more unnoticed and taken for granted. Admittedly, I never put much thought into it myself but the way it gets described and delineated completely changed the outlook of how I view the purpose of a building in such a resounding way. Whenever a film can have an impact to that level on me, it deserves plenty of praise. 

The discussion of architecture certainly does not become the only thing this film focuses on as it has two strangers come together to discuss their status as individuals and how it relates to their parents. Jin has traveled from South Korea to care for a father who he feels detached from while Casey wants to continue a close connection with a mother seemingly pushing her back. They both find themselves at an impasse where Jin has let this blockage stop him from fully embracing life while Casey remains reluctant to pursue her dreams of studying architecture because of the level of concern she has for her mother. All of this gets played out through such invigoratingly exquisite conversations held by the pair helped on by the luscious dialogue given by Kogonada. It became quite the experience just listening to them process everything happening in their lives and how quickly wonderful chemistry can build between two strangers. It makes for the climactic moment and finale to carry such a level of resonance. Through these simple conversations, we go on such a journey with these characters and it truly astounds. 

This gets helped along by the astounding cinematography of Elisha Christian, whose collaboration with Kogonada allows for some distinctly gorgeous shots. On several occasions, it keeps the audience at a distance as these two discuss such personal aspects of their lives. The camera angles help dictate the mood of what they discuss and truly dazzle. On top of the lighting in the way it captures the buildings Casey and Jin see, it makes for such a visual experience on top of the dialogue to make such a wonderful combination

As an acting two-hander, John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson both bring a level of compassion and tenderness to their roles. Cho portrays the more cynical character as he has experienced more of life and a tumultuous relationship with his father. He portrays a level of sadness in everything he says that matches the state of mind of the character so well, which serves as the perfect counterbalance to Richardson taking on the more optimistic side. Richardson always does so well in these types of roles and anyone who reads my reviews knows I’m such a fan of her work. She does so much with just facial expressions whether it be a disarming smile or a quivering look of worry. She matches up beautifully well with Cho as she portrays a character at a critical jumping-off point in life and handles it all like the pro we all know and love. Tremendous once again. 

Serving as a testament to the power of conversation and basic empathy for another human being, Columbus emits a feeling of connection, even with a stranger. A sublime experience by two tremendous actors all spearheaded by such an invigoratingly new voice in the world of cinema. It only excites me more to see what Koganada will deliver next as he continues to show his intricate love for this art form by highlighting another.

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