We see a woman walking through a very stylish house calling out in Korean for the professor. She heads outside under an umbrella and walks around the house, still calling out of the professor. She finds him standing in the rain admiring the view of a lush lawn with a row of trees beyond the grass. We cut to the professor and his friend underneath a large overhang of the house. While the woman talks on the phone with her back to the professor, he wanders off picking up an umbrella to head out under the rain. She finally realizes that he is gone, and then sees him collapsed on the sidewalk. She drops her purse and runs after the professor.
We cut to the outside of a library when Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is taking a smoking break. As she stares at some of the other buildings in the area, she practices some sort of tour guide talks about the local architecture. We see her go through her day, helping customers and putting up books. Casey finds a fellow coworker, Gabriel (Rory Culkin) sitting on the floor reading a book. Casey asks if Gabriel if he wants to catch a movie, but Gabriel has other plans. Casey brings up the point that she won’t get hired full-time if she doesn’t get a Master’s degree. Casey apparently has an opportunity to go to college, but it would mean moving away, and she says that she just can’t do that now.
We cut to nighttime and Casey gets out of her car, sits on the hood and looks at the lit up hospital in front of her. The building is very unusual looking, with big windows that tinted yellow and green. She sits on the car and sinks in the building’s atmosphere. She notices that a man gets out of a car in front of the hospital entrance with a suitcase on rollers. As he heads inside, we see that Casey has been waiting for her mother to get off her shift. We cut to inside the hospital as the man, named Jin (John Cho) walks down a hallway towards a woman (Parker Posey), and they hug each other. They head inside one of the hospital rooms where Jin’s father is in a coma. Jin and Casey haven’t met yet, but they will, and when they do that meeting will change both of their lives.
Writer/director Kogonada brings us a magical film about family, relationships and dreaming of things that you think can’t come true. The film takes place in Columbus, Indiana, the “Midwest Mecca of Architecture” and its magnificent buildings are the backdrop for this film. Every shot utilizes these brilliant buildings, making you really feel a part of the landscape. From the first scenes of the woman looking for the professor, all in long shots that showcase the building, we almost instantly learn that architecture will be paramount in this film. The camera is always placed to highlight the buildings and their surroundings. And it’s not just the outside of the buildings that Kogonada adores in this film; it’s also the pillows and knickknacks that catch the camera’s eye.
Relationships are the key to this movie and the one that develops between Jin and Casey, two damaged souls who are both living under the shadow of their parents, is handled slowly and sweetly. Casey, a woman who loves architecture and Jen, the son of a man who is an expert in the field, seems unlikely to strike up a friendship but each person sense that there is something more to explore. What I love about this film is that the two characters slowly peel back the layers of Jin and Casey as their conversations continue. The characters become part of the architecture, interacting with it and exploring it. Casey has even numbered her favorite buildings like a film lover would rate movies.
John Cho, as the son who would rather be anywhere other than Columbus and Haley Lu Richardson as the woman who loves Columbus and its architecture, work extremely well with each other on the screen. This helps their conversations feel real and emotional, which is important as the film uses these conversations to give us insight into the makeup of their characters. Cho has a grace about him on the screen that makes you like him and want him to succeed. Richardson is a little awkward, making her endearing to the audience and Jin. Richardson sparkles on screen, lighting it up every time she appears.
Columbus is a film that will hold you spellbound as it explores the importance of relationships, the ones that we honor and the ones that we have to leave to better ourselves. It’s a film that values conversations, interactions between two people who are finding out what is important to them. Columbus is a film that will stay with you for a long time. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in Atlanta at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here