When his academic/architect father collapses during a lecture tour, Korean-American translator Jin (John Cho) finds himself marooned in the titular city as his comatose parent hovers on the brink of death. Killing time, he bums a cigarette from teenager Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a local librarian who’s elected not to go to college, instead staying behind in Columbus in order to support her recovering meth addict mother (Michelle Forbes) while her peers start their lives.

Despite their age gap and very different circumstances, there’s an instant connection between the two and together they explore the quiet Indiana town famed for its modernist architecture and public art, Casey acting as de facto tour guide, their evolving relationship challenging them and, ultimately, profoundly changing both their lives.

Precise, measured and almost hypnotic, academic-turned-filmmaker Kogonada’s exquisitely shot and beautifully performed ‘nomance’ Columbus is a woozy tribute to the work of both Ozu and Linklater, the film’s elegant formality serving to heighten the tender awkwardness of Jin and Casey’s blossoming friendship, their surface discussions of architecture and philosophy serving to map their emotional geography, exploring their internal spaces even as they explore Columus, Indiana’s external spaces.

Complimenting each other perfectly, Cho and Richardson share an easy chemistry, the film’s greatest pleasure lying in watching their growing bond, Kogonada capturing the subtle intimacy growing between them. As the world-weary, straight-laced Jin, Columbus sees the charismatic Cho finally carry a film as a leading man and he’s ably matched by the luminous Richardson, her subtle performance as nuanced as the film itself while Michelle Forbes, Rory Culkin and Parker Posey provide strong support.

Smart, quietly profound and wryly funny, Columbus is sensitive, warm and satisfying.

 

Movie Review: Columbus
4.0Overall Score
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