Film review: Columbus

Jon Cho and Haley Lu Richardson in Columbus
Jon Cho and Haley Lu Richardson in Columbus
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A STORY of love, loss and architecture, Columbus is the sort of exquisitely constructed, beautifully acted drama that’s been edged out of the arthouse circuit in recent years. That’s too bad given it’s exactly the type of movie that benefits from the space and contemplation afforded by cinematic exhibition.

Glasgow Film Festival ****

Receiving its Scottish premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival this past week, it marks the debut feature of enigmatic video essayist Kogonada, who’s built up quite the online following with mini films that deconstruct the way we watch cinema. It’s a trait he’s carried over into Columbus, which is very much about the art of looking: at buildings, at the world, at ourselves.

The film’s titular setting is an apparent Mecca for architecture enthusiasts who flock to the otherwise nondescript Indiana town to revel in the disproportionately high number of modernist buildings scattered throughout. Most locals don’t pay attention, but one who does is Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a college-age student who is putting her life on hold to take care of her mother, a recovering meth addict. For Casey, these buildings are sanctuaries where she can imagine different lives. The opposite is true for Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born translator newly arrived in town to be with his dying father, an architect more devoted to his career than his family. A chance encounter brings these two lost souls together and the resulting film charts their evolving relationship with such serenity, the restorative effect they have on each other feels contagious.

ALISTAIR HARKNESS