IN REVIEW: COLUMBUS
The director of Columbus, Kogonda, made his name as an astute video essayist on the works of Ozu, Kubrick, Bergman and Linklater amongst others. In this, his first feature, he has created a tranquil and emotional film that on the surface is concerned with architecture but has deeper layers of self-discovery and letting go. The ghosts of Kogonda’s idols are certainly present through his style and tone, giving it a welcome clarity and assuredness.
The film centres around Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) – a perceptive and intuitive girl, just out of high school, who works at a local library. She strikes up a friendship with Jin (John Cho), a translator who has flown into the city from Seoul to be near his sick father. The pair, who have a clear age difference, bond over the buildings that surround them (Columbus is a city renowned for its striking modernism) and through the relationships they have with their parents.
The connection between the two leads has a strong likeness to the unlikely couple played by Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. In fact, the film itself is shares many themes with Sofia Coppola’s modern masterpiece: it is thoughtful and deft, distinctive and meditative.
What also adds to the overall success is that Cho and Richardson are on fine form throughout. Their chemistry is well judged and subtle – something that would have otherwise threatened to derail the narrative thread. They share a frustration and tiredness with the world and this emotionally binds them. Through it, together, they begin to understand their current situations and what they should do next.
As a student of such great story tellers, Kogonada has tapped into an energy that leaves a lingering and quietly powerful feeling, one shrouded in elegance and maturity. This is simplicity demonstrated with control. TS