Cinema Review: Columbus

Posted 6 months ago in Cinema Reviews

Director: Kogonada

Talent: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Rory Culkin, Parker Posey

Released: 5 October

Columbus sees John Cho play Jin, a Korean translator, who has returned to the titular mid-western city after his father, a renowned architect, falls ill. While in Columbus he meets young architect enthusiast Casey, played by Haley Lu Richardson, who works at the local library.

Columbus, Indiana, is somewhat of an architectural mecca after a philanthropist pumped money into it and drew huge names to redesign the city over many decades. Director Kogonada uses this unique perspective to craft a beautiful story, with the characters and story framed in and around the architectural triumphs.

What follows is a heady mix of traditional landmark and modernist architecture spotting, of which there are many including: the Miller House, the North Christian Church, the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, the Republic Newspaper Building and the First Christian Church.

There is a wonderful wistful feeling to the quiet, slow but steady pace of the film. In part this is achieved with plenty of perfectly centred mid level shots and static shots that linger long in an almost referential silence. The buildings, much like the words between the two central characters as they smoke and relax, are so meticulous, measured and carefully chosen.

Columbus also benefits hugely from the effective chemistry and slow burning intimacy shared between Cho and Richardson. Much of their dialogue and the unfurling loneliness of the central characters that we begin to see, their palpable uneasiness or unwillingness to get close to one another, somehow just fits alongside the angles and warm colours of the buildings. The lull of the architecture and the lush vibrancy of the green trees and lawns make such carefully constructed borders more of a warm embrace for Jin and Casey to co-exist rather than a claustrophobic encasement.

Using architecture in this way is an unusual approach to a drama that might have felt like a gimmick if it weren’t incorporated so fittingly into the film. This gently paced film is a seductive portrayal of (wo)man and construct, at once contemplative, meditative and immersive.

Words: Shane O’Reilly


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