Review: ‘Columbus’ is One of the Most Human Films of the Year

Clear, confident direction makes Columbus relatable and authentic.

RATING: ★★★1/2 (out of four stars)

In 2016, there were a few films that dealt with real-life situations and had very human characters. The first ones that come to mind are Manchester by the Sea and Paterson, which were both phenomenal. It took us till August of 2017, but now we have our first authentic and moving indie film in Columbus. The writing, directing, and acting carry Columbus through its hour and forty-minute run time. It may not be for everyone, but lovers of real-life stories need to see it.

From the beginning, Columbus has that genuine vibe. This is director Kogonada’s debut, and I felt like I was watching a movie from a veteran filmmaker.  He did such a good job developing the characters and sharply defining and intertwining them with the themes of the story. John Cho shows a side that I’ve never seen before with his character Jin. He finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana while his father is in a coma. Shortly thereafter, he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a younger and charismatic girl who is choosing to stay in Columbus to help her mom, who is a recovering drug addict. This obligation of caring for her mom is holding Casey back, and Jin never had a good relationship with his dad, so he is basically waiting for him to die. It is really pleasing and slightly depressing to see how these different characters almost parallel each other. They are both struggling in their own ways, and they confide in each other. Because of the writing and acting, this feels like a very real-life setting.

One of my favorite things about Columbus is how aesthetically pleasing the cinematography coincides with the themes of the story. Jin’s father is an architect, but Jin claims he doesn’t care about architecture. Casey loves the buildings in Columbus, and she and Jin usually exchange their dialogue while in front of one of her favorite buildings. As the story progresses, Jin slowly hints that he maybe doesn’t hate architecture as much as he claims. The framing of the shots speaks volumes to the writing and problems our main characters are dealing with.

The chemistry between Jin and Casey is very interesting. Jin is much older than Casey, but they seem to have an intimate connection that is purely non-sexual; it is almost like their souls understand each other. The way they convey this to the audience is really captivating and commanding. Their relationship is similar to Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. It is nice to see relationships like this in films from time to time.

The only thing that keeps Columbus from being a perfect four-star movie is that you may walk out of the theater wanting just a little bit more from the story. This isn’t the kind of movie that’s going to have intense moments, but I think they could have done a little more with a few of the interesting scenes. By the end, Columbus is satisfying and definitely worth watching in theaters. Go check it out at The Belcourt Theatre here in Nashville.