Columbus: Film Review

I first became aware of Haley Lu Richardson with her impressive performance in 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen, and she was the main reason I wanted to check out Columbus. She didn’t let me down this time either, with another natural, moving performance.

She plays Casey, who lives with her mum in Columbus, Ohio and works at a library while all her friends are moving away, graduating from college and starting their futures. She convinces herself she’s happy there and needs to stay, as her mum is a recovering meth addict, but a chance encounter with Jin (John Cho), who is visiting his father who has fallen into a coma while on a trip there, helps her reassess her life. Jin’s father was an architecture scholar, and she’s an architecture nerd, so they bond while touring notable buildings and structures in Columbus.

Kogonada, making his feature film debut, has created a quiet, minimal film that is beautifully shot. It contains some really interesting and creative framing choices and is definitely of the indie sensibility, given how slow-moving it is. There isn’t much that happens, there is a lot of silence, but it was nice to watch the duo bond and help each other out.

Cho has a tough role – playing a man who is conflicted because he had resentments towards his father who is now very ill – but he portrays it well in a subtle manner. Richardson, however, was sensational. She is so natural and she brightens up the screen, completely captivating, and you can’t help but feel for her when she gets upset. Her story is heartbreaking and you want more for her. The film excels when these guys are put together; the dialogue between them is a pleasure to watch and something you can really sink your teeth into.

They have excellent support from Parker Posey as Eleanor, Jin’s father’s longtime assistant, who is very emotional about his health and is torn between staying in Columbus and returning home to Chicago, and Rory Culkin as Gabriel, Casey’s co-worker at the library, who is definitely trying to make something romantic happen, but she isn’t interested. The conversations between Eleanor and Jin, as well as Gabriel and Casey, are equally engrossing.

Columbus won’t have mainstream appeal because it isn’t told in a traditional way. It is slow, it isn’t put together in obvious ways and it doesn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow. Plus, there is a lot of talk about architecture, but I don’t particularly care for it and I enjoyed it all the same. It is a lovely film, with terrific lead performances.

In selected cinemas Friday 5th October 

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