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Columbus

Official Selection - Sundance Film Festival

"Modernism of the soul." This is the way Jin (John Cho) describes the latest research of his architecture professor father to his new young friend Casey (Haley Lu Richardson). It's a phrase that also perfectly sums up "Columbus," the film by Kogonada. This is a film about architecture -- specifically, the uniquely modernist buildings in the small, Midwestern town of Columbus, Ind. -- and the film itself is architectural in style, creating a perfect symbiosis of style and story. But the film transcends its intellectual structures to strike a unique emotional chord. Jin rushes to Columbus when his father collapses and is hospitalized. It seems he's in a coma, though that word is never mentioned. Jin is a melancholy outsider who meets a melancholy insider, Casey, sharing cigarettes over the fence of the local inn where he's staying. Casey is a local self-taught architecture nerd, skipping college to work at the library and live at home with mom (Michelle Forbes). She's taught herself modernism in her own hometown, basking in the glow of the Deborah Berke-designed Irwin Union Bank, committing facts about Eero Saarinen to memory while exploring his North Christian Church. Casey, intrigued by Jin and his blase attitude about architecture ("when you grow up around something, it feels like nothing," he says) pursues a friendship with him, sharing her favorite buildings in Columbus with him. During these excursions, the two share deep talks about their ambitions or lack thereof, their troubled relationships to their parents, their past struggles. Along the way, a goal crystallizes for Jin: to get Casey to pursue higher education and a career in architecture, a dream she's put off to stay close to her recovering addict mother. But this isn't just a film about characters, it's about these characters in relationship to their environment, and Kogonada never lets us forget that. Jin and Casey are always just one part of the frame, surrounded by doorways, or dwarfed by enormous structures of brick and glass. It's because of their environment that they find this connection -- Casey is searching for something beyond the confines of her hometown, Jin is alone in a small, foreign place, seeing its magic through the eyes of a local. Richardson, a bright, sunny presence in "The Bronze" and "The Edge of Seventeen," demonstrates her remarkable range in this tender and powerful performance. Cho is also fantastic in a performance that is subtle, specific and quietly stirring. Parker Posey and Rory Culkin are welcome supporting players. "Columbus" is a film about architecture that is inherently architectural in structure, style, mood, and tone. Columbus, Indiana and "Columbus" the film are all right angles and clean lines, containing non-linear and messy human emotions. But more deeply, it's a film about a place, and the way that a place -- the people, buildings, and stories in it -- can shape ourselves, over the course of a lifetime, or for only a short period of time. Kogonada is known for his visual essays on great filmmakers such as Ozu, Hitchcock, Bergman, and Bresson, and "Columbus" is his directorial debut. It's almost startling in how assured it is, synthesizing beautiful, controlled images with story and character. It's a meditation and a musing on art, and the ways in which the experiences of art can define a life, push it foward or root it in place.

4 stars - Courtesy: Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
Kogonada
Running Time: 
104
Country(ies): 
U.S.A.
Year: 
2017
Language: 
English
Starring: 
John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin, Michelle Forbes
Official site: 
Link
Screenplay by: 
Kogonada
Rated: 
PG

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