“You grow up around something and it feels like nothing” says the character Jin in Columbus, the directorial debut from Kogonada.
Jin, played by John Cho, summarizes much of the film’s essence in this line, as Columbus tells two stories of people struggling outgrow their past.
On one hand there’s Jin, a Korean publisher whose father’s failing health forces him to set up a temporary residence in Columbus, Indiana. On the other end of the spectrum is Casey, a 19 year old with a deep passion for architecture, who’s lives with and looks after her recovering addict mother. As the two cross paths and learn from each other how to handle family and conflict, Columbus spawns an unusual love story.
Both of these characters are at a crossroad in their lives. Casey is not sure where she wants to go next in life, and Jin can’t be bothered to look back on his decisions and learn from his own past. Through their adventures around the town’s architectural landmarks, Casey’s extensive knowledge on the town’s architecture serves as a good excuse for her to teach Jin more about the subject and spend time with him, and through that for them to learn more about each other. Jin’s reluctance to open up to himself about his relationship with his father gets to be problematic as his father lays in a coma, and Casey has the world at her fingertips yet remains hesitant about leaving her mother unattended. The issues explored in Columbus don’t necessarily set the stage for a happy go lucky romance, but instead present real life concerns that aren’t exaggerated to the point where viewers can’t relate. John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson both add an extra level of depth to their characters to the point where it’s difficult to envision any other performers in their roles. Cho establishes himself outside of his sci-fi stardom through Jin, and newcomer Haley Lu Richardson brings an innocent fascination to her character that aids in carrying the film.
Columbus, Indiana’s surprisingly stunning architecture also provides the perfect backdrop for Jin and Casey’s various meetups, and newcomer Kogonada utilizes the setting excellently. With each scene opening up with artistic, canvas like shots of buildings and landscapes, and with his stunning utilization of tools like reflections and symmetry, Kogonada establishes a captivating directorial style in the film that will be sure to catch and please the eyes of audiences.
Riddled with complicated family dynamics and personal discovery, Kogonada Columbus explores a different type of indie romance, with stunning visuals to support. John Cho is seen like never before with the gripping vulnerability beneath his role and alongside him Haley Lu Richardson makes her mark as the young lead in a story that is sure to capture audiences.
The film opens August 4.