Columbus is an exercise in subtlety, in the best way imaginable. I really cannot pinpoint even one thing that I thought this film did not accomplish to a staggering degree. The cinematography, writing, directing, and acting are all superb, not to mention the unique usage of sound design and score. All in all, this is one of the best films I have seen so far at HIFF this year, and perhaps the entire year as a whole.
Columbus stars John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, with supporting performances by Rory Culkin and Parker Posey. The film is written and directed by South Korean filmmaker Kogonada. Going along with the theme of everything in this film being absolutely stellar, Columbus contains the best performances of every actor and actress involved, and certainly represents the most impressive directing and writing debut that I have seen in a very long time. Columbus truly represents independent cinema at its best.
The film centers around a Korean-born man who is forced to come to Columbus, Indiana, due to his father (a professor of architecture) falling into a coma, as well as the relationships he rekindles and forged throughout his lengthy stay. Sounds boring, right? You might think so, and if I am being honest, I thought it might be boring as well. But, the immense buzz surrounding this film, as well as the record of the performers involved, drove my butt into the seat this evening at Regal Dole Cannery, and as you should have already guessed, it did not disappoint.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this film was the immaculate cinematography by cinematographer Elisha Christian, who, in my opinion, is now the direct rival of Roger Deakins for next year’s Oscars category for Best Cinematography. The work by her here is remarkable, absolutely beyond compare with films of its ilk. Simple framing of beautiful architecture in the city of Columbus gives the film the artistic edge it needs to be as incredibly easy on the eyes as it is on the brain and heart. Speaking of emotional and intellectual depth, the actors all give the greatest performances of their careers, including what is perhaps the film’s greatest standout, Haley Lu Richardson. I have adored her work since I saw her in the brilliant teen-comedy The Edge Of Seventeen last year, and to say the least, she is revelatory in both her emotional complexity, as well as comedic timing. To put it frankly, she will be getting nominated for Best Actress next year at the 90th Academy Awards. Any other outcome will truly be a crime against this film, as well as the Academy’s integrity. Columbus will truly be a sleeping giant come awards season, mark my words.