Kogonada’s meditative Columbus is in many ways the archetypal Sundance film. When his architecture-scholar father is admitted to a hospital in Columbus, Ind., during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) arrives from Seoul to be by his side. But being literally at his father’s side is the last thing Jin wants, so he spends much of his time developing a friendship with young library worker and architecture buff Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), who’s working through her own parental issues as well as her reluctance to move away from Columbus. Most of all, Columbus is architecture porn, set in a city famed for its modernist buildings, and in which seemingly every one of them offers tours.
Kogonada shoots it all lovingly, mostly in locked-down medium and wide two-shots; the camera seldom moves, closeups are used sparingly but effectively, and it’s all set to a shimmery, ambient score that sounds like Stars of the Lid but is in fact by that group’s contemporaries, Hammock. It’s not all dour, though — Kogonada works in a “your mom” joke, and it’s the second film this month after Person to Person in which the female lead contemplates the worth of librarianship as a career, though Columbus suggests that the MLIS is the most useless of degrees. Message received, indie film!
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.