Columbus – Review
by Martina Hysi
Directed by South Korean filmmaker Kogonada, Columbus is a visually accomplished film, striking in colour, form and ideation, entirely original in its execution.
The modernist architecture of the city of Columbus, Indiana, feels like the third lead of this film, which follows Jin (John Cho) and Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) as they strike up an unlikely friendship. They both share complicated relationships with their parents: Jin is estranged from his architect father, and feigns disinterest in the subject, while Casey is aiding her mother in her recovery from meth addiction. The responsibility for her care is slowly crushing her own dreams of becoming an architect. Jin follows Casey as she takes him on a deliberate, tantalising tour of the city, her city, as she knows it.
Much of Columbus occurs in spaces that do not show the actions of our characters directly. We rather witness them indirectly – on the mirror of a dresser, on the rear view mirror of a car. When our gaze is focused upon their faces, we can only see them talking, but cannot hear them. This manipulation of the senses leads to an entirely novel and effective way of writing dialogue. The wordless communication allows viewers to participate, pulled into shots that are beautifully outlined in simultaneously vibrant and restrained colours.
Even in its most explosive moments, the film is self-contained. We see the effects of the explosion, but we do not hear the sounds, which amplifies the dilemma our leads face in their path to making the right choice. It can often be painful – as it is sometimes to accept help, or admit that you need it. It was an extraordinary experience to watch this conundrum unfold upon the face of the talented Richardson.
While there were moments where I found the script to be a little contrived, it is nearly impossible not to find yourself thoroughly charmed. Columbus is now in my bucket list of cities to see – who would have thought a Midwest Mecca of Architecture existed?