20 July 2024

Film Review – Columbus (2018)

This line, delivered by Hayley Lu Richardson’s character Casey, perfectly sums up the vibrant yet rigid architecture on display within Kogonada’s directorial debut, Columbus, a narratively stunted yet beautifully crafted character drama.

The film follows Korean-born Jin (played by John Cho) as he is reluctantly pulled to Columbus, Indiana after his father is hospitalised. Whilst there, Jin meets Casey, a young girl with big dreams and opportunities, who feels compelled to stay in her hometown to care for her mother, a recovering addict. As the two explore the town’s modernistic architecture together, they uncover each other’s history, aspirations and fears, all the while questioning the importance of family and following your dreams.

It becomes clear early on that academic-turned-filmmaker Kogonada created this film as a love letter to the craft of filmmaking, making ‘Columbus’ almost as meta as they come. The story itself isn’t overly compelling, often feeling like an afterthought to the visuals with nothing much actually happening plot wise. Usually, that would instantly turn me off, but what Kogonada has so deftly crafted here offers so much more beyond the narrative as he splashes his love for filmmaking right on the screen for all to see.

Each shot has been meticulously planned, following the modernistic architecture discussed in the film; with almost every frame being asymmetrical yet balanced. Now, I personally don’t think that ‘Columbus’ would appeal to a mainstream audience, but then I don’t think that was the intention. Kogonada seems to be using architecture, and this movie in fact, as an allegory for filmmaking and it seems to have been made to be studied and discussed, hoping to evoke the same passion that the director and writer have for the film.

I could go on about the intricacies of this film’s meticulous design and cinematography, about the almost entirely diegetic sound used or the asymmetrical narrative structure, but alas, this isn’t the time to fanboy.

Although I’ve said that the plot isn’t anything special, the dialogue, on the other hand, is very well crafted, both subtly developing the characters and the relationships as well as adding to the meta allegory. This is definitely helped by some fantastic performances from both John Cho and Parker Posey, with a standout performance from Hayley Lu Richardson who blew me away with her subtle, yet evocative portrayal of a girl torn between her potential and her family.

‘I was going for something a little more subtle…because sometimes you can taste the food better and there’s a better after taste.’

Ultimately, I absolutely adored this film and just as Casey said in the line above, the subtlety has left me with a great after taste that will stay with me for a while. Honestly, this isn’t usually the type of film that I would rave about, but for anyone that has a passion for filmmaking or an interest in the craft, I would highly recommend ‘Columbus’.

COLUMBUS is scheduled for release on November 19th in a special 2 disc DVD and Blu-ray package with accompanying booklet which includes a new interview with the director, Kogonada.

Drama, Romance | USA 2017 | 12A | 19th November 2018 (UK) | Blu-Ray, DVD| Network Releasing | Dir. Kogonada | John Cho, Hayley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey

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