Columbus: NZIFF Review
Everyone's life is on hold in the quietly impressive drama Columbus.
From Haley Lu Richardson's Cassie, whose chance to go to college is on pause as she looks after her mom to John Cho's Jin whose father has had a medical event and whose estrangement has come bitterly into focus, there's a sense of the inert in director Kogonada's subtle film.
Set in among the architecture of Columbus Indiana, Kogonada's film focuses on the duo who meet accidentally and become friends, with Cassie once again seeming to feel the need to usher the uncaring Jin through his experience.
But, even though the two appear to be kindred spirits, the peaceful pace and perfect slow cinema ambling of the script doesn't allow the film to fall into cliche.
With Richardson majorly stepping up and assuming the mantle of the lead in this, shouldering much of the bookish dialogue and gently truthful banter with great aplomb. There's plenty of veritas in Richardson's performance, and it's a sign once again that she's a significant young talent to watch ; this time in particular, she lends credence to the older edges of the script, but never loses the lightness of touch that a spirit desperate to fly but unable to out of a sense of duty would possess.
Equally, Cho gives something of a quiet internalised performance that's redolent of a sidelined leading man. In his interactions with Cassie, the unusual friendship blossoms thanks to the gentle pace and the languid approach that Cho delivers to his evidently angry and ultimately looking-for-redemption Jin. There's likely to be large swathes of people who identify with Jin (and his protestations that "he never paused his life for me") - but Cho ensures Jin isn't a spoilt brat looking for love, but is more a soul in need of some kind of rebirth.
In a debut that's more than worthy of your time, Kogonada frames much of Indiana with the architecture of the area evident in almost every shot in some way or other; whether it's wide shots that give a sense of space or an always-there building lurking in the background, the film's assembled in such a way that it's destined to be one of a film-maker capturing an area on record, and populating it with people with everyday problems and everyday concerns.
Strong unassuming support from Parker Posey, Michelle Forbes and Rory Culkin add credence and weight to the veracity and tone of voice of the proceedings.
But rest assured, Columbus is Richardson and Cho's film. This is no quirky coming-of-age tale that feels the need to populate itself with self-aware dialogue; this is earnest, honest and heart-warming fare - and because of that, it radiates from the screen.