It would be reductive to call Columbus the antidote to the ever bigger, faster and louder blockbuster mentality of modern moviemaking because it is so much more than that, but it would also be accurate. In this quiet, placid indie film, two people find themselves making an unlikely connection among the surprising architectural riches of Columbus, Indiana. Haley Lu Richardson plays a young woman who works in a local library and lives with her mother, a recovering drug addict; John Cho is a Korean-American who has come to Columbus because his demanding architect father has fallen into a coma. The film is incredibly slowly paced with no real plot to speak of; it simply offers a look into the lives of these people and the growing friendship between the two of them after a chance encounter. Writer-director Kogonada makes an astoundingly assured debut; he makes no concessions to audiences, but instead crafts what is clearly a labor of love, a near perfect evocation of loneliness and lostness and stillness. The visuals are stark, but beautiful, capturing architecture in a really beautiful way, but also putting us up close and personal with these characters. The performances are wonderful. I’ve seen Richardson in a couple of things and thought her better than average if not much more; she’s a pure revelation here, one of the best performances of the year, a minimal portrait of sadness and uncertainty. John Cho is typically excellent, giving what is easily his most reserved and interior performance, a richly complex piece of work. The supporting cast boasts a lot of fine work as well. Rory Culkin steals every scene he’s in as a gangly co-worker of Richardson’s character. Parker Posey is wonderful as the harried assistant to Cho’s father. The film really digs deep into these characters and gets inside them in a very real and natural way. It’s a film that’s absolutely transportive. Like the architecture of the film or like a walk through a medieval labyrinth or an afternoon next to a Japanese rock garden, this film is soothing to the soul, a still pond that reveals immense depth. 4 stars.
tl;dr – quiet, minimal character drama features beautifully restrained performances, an evocative screenplay and moody, atmospheric direction; a tranquil, soothing, moving masterpiece. 4 stars.