Sep 9, 2017

It's Columbus, Indiana, where  modernist architecture  bonds with humanity.


Grade: A-

Director: Kogonada

Cast: John Cho (Star Trek Beyond), Hayley Lou Richardson (Split)

Rating: NR

Runtime: 1 hr 40 min

by John DeSando

“Meth and modernism are really big here.” Casey (Haley Lu Richardson)

If you need an example of a modern art film, look no further than the Columbus film of Korean director Kogonada.  It’s a minimalist treatment of familial interaction and non-sexual intimacy worthy of Richard Linklater in his early Sunrise franchise. Its greatest achievement is bonding architecture with humanity so that the former becomes a character itself.

As for the light tone of the opening quote, Columbus the film, in an act of humane tenderness, never makes fun of the people or the city.

Korean Jin (John Cho) meets Casey in small town Columbus, Indiana. Although it feels a bit like a clichéd cow town, contrarily it has some of the best modernist architecture in the USA just as the couple deal with modern challenges as they blend their millennial dysfunctions with the seriousness of love and death. He is visiting his comatose architect father while she is fighting with herself to stay at home and tend to addicted mother while a university offering her fulfillment for her architectural enthusiasm is trying to tear her away.

Although the two are developing love that is chaste and from afar, their conversation gradually takes on depth mirrored in the growing presence of buildings from the likes of Deborah Berke, Eero Saarinen, and James Stewart Polshek, a conjunction of the real and almost ethereal, as several of the stunningly stark, simple, and transparent buildings reflect. That the director chooses to shoot a whole scene in a mirror, and others briefly is a tribute to the interest he has in appearance and reality and the importance of place.

This intensely and immaculately filmed indie is a fitting declaration of the melancholy unity between living lovers and dynamic architecture. Enjoy the view and dialogue; moviemaking doesn’t need to offer more.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at