Columbus will remind many of us of another time, before our collective headspaces were devoted to politics and finance, when we would willingly spend long afternoons smoking cigarettes and talking about the nature of art and existence.
While there is not much plot to Columbus, there is a story and it’s a lovely one. When his father, a famous architecture scholar, falls seriously ill in Columbus while on the lecture circuit, Jin (John Cho), a book translator living in Seoul, arrives to be with him, even though they are estranged. Jin, who has no interest in architecture himself, happens upon Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a recent high school graduate who is in a blissful state of stasis, deeply under the thrall of her town’s architecture. She also cares for a parent, her mother, a recovering drug addict. They gradually tease out their fears and doubts, as Casey introduces Jin, and by extension the audience, to the buildings, speaking not of their architectural magnificence but about her emotional connection to each.
With his camera placed at a low, deferential angle, and from a respectful distance, director Kogonada presents the structures with a kind-of wide shot wonder reminiscent of the way John Ford captured Monument Valley.
As much as it is about architecture, the film is also a love letter to movies themselves: the sense of majesty they can capture and the strange little worlds they allow us to discover. As such, this modest, quiet-yet-talky little independent film really needs to be seen at the cinema, and away from the distractions and pressures of home. A movie theater is the best way to make an emotional connection to the film’s aesthetic ideas about symmetry and balance, weight and lightness.
~~ Oliver Jones, observer.com