If there is a recent debut feature that has been stirring a massive, positive buzz out there, it is “Columbus”, a drama with an exceptional architectural orientation, both materially and emotionally.
The film, written and directed by American-Korean Kogonada and shot over 18 days, stars Haley Lu Richardson as Casey, an architect wanna-be, and John Cho as Jin, a Korean-born American-raised translator. Both characters are facing severe family issues that keep them stuck in their personal lives. Can they help each other in order to escape the impasse?
Casey, an architecture enthusiast, forces herself to stay in Columbus, Indiana, to take care of her mother, Maria (Michelle Forbes), a former addict whose whereabouts are not always accurate. On the other hand, Jin postpones his return to Korea, where he works, while waiting for developments in the health state of his estranged, architect father, who is in a coma.
When not together – smoking in a corner, driving aimlessly throughout the city, or exchanging thoughts about their personal concerns and dreams – Casey and Jin occupy their time in different ways. She works at the local library, where she usually engages in a conversation with her co-worker, Gabriel (Rory Caulkin), a Doctoral student friend who slowly and prudently unveils his feelings for her. Jin often gets bored at home, revealing a hazy infatuation whenever Eleanor (Parker Posey), his father’s assistant to whom he was attracted in the past, is around.
Among graceful aesthetic shots, where architectonic structures and symmetries are given a special emphasis, Kogonada uses elementary filmmaking processes to highlight real people within an honest, plausible story.
Still, despite the narrative self-assurance and devoted performances, I found a few lingering, torpid scenes sculpted with strategic tonal approaches while the dialogue is leisurely rendered. It’s a mature script that reveals inconstant developments when brought into play, especially pace-wise.
Luckily, there’s a strong humane side that brims from the characters’ openness to give and receive unconditionally, restoring the possible gaps and quibbles of a minimalist drama that blends the merits of a stylish building design with the mighty powers of the heart.
ABOUT FILIPE FREITAS
Filipe Freitas is a New York-based Portuguese film critic and jazz music writer.
He’s the founder and lead critic of Always Good Movies film website, launched in 2010, and co-founder of JazzTrail, site that explores the vibrant NY Jazz Scene. He has a background in electrical engineering, a field he quit in 2012 to follow his dreams.