Columbus is the first film from Korean-born writer Kogonada and while his maturity in the field wasn’t perceptible through the feature, Kogonada may have made a name for himself as an essayist, as his impeccable framing in this debut makes it clear where his talents lie.
The film has already received critical acclaim after being screened at the Sundance Film Festival, so it was hardly a surprise that I came to find the feature arrestingly immersive with a steady and masterful plot that will have you hooked before you figure out where it’s all heading.
Set in the small town of Columbus, home to a myriad of infamous architectural structures, it has an appealing skyline yet despite this there’s a mellow destitution sweeping through every frame. The emptiness becomes static until an awkward romance blossoms between two people who are seemingly worlds apart, yet anchored by their familial ties in the town. Jin (John Cho) is the archetypal straight-laced guy who’s father, a respected professor, falls into a coma just as architecture buff and Columbus local Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) was intending to see him. Whilst a romance will seem absolutely out of the equation, it evolves with seamless fluidity that makes you eager with the expectation of watching it unravel.
Perhaps what will hit you the hardest about the film is the intellectualism. While it’s probably a given that most viewers will know little about architecture, by the time the feature meanders to a close, you could almost share the same passion as the structures are painted in such a passionate light. At the end of the day, there will never be anything more beautiful than hearing a person talk about their passion, we may not come to share it, but we become open to the beauty after it has been exquisitely narrated through someone else’s vision.
So before you start getting excited about all the gloriously macabre Halloween offerings coming up, make some time for this tentatively sweet and emotionally-pressing masterpiece.
Columbus is released in UK cinemas on 5 October.