I was wondering how to start writing about this film, so I turned to the IMDb blurb for inspiration. It says:
A Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. The man meets a young woman who wants to stay in Columbus with her mother, a recovering addict, instead of pursuing her own dreams.
And this is indeed the basis for the film. However, it’s also a film which is so much more than that premise.
Despite the range of strong emotions being experienced by the characters (guilt, grief, anger, despair), it’s an incredibly still and calm film, full of a sense of longing and hope which reminded me of some of Wong-Kar Wai’s work. The stillness also emanates from the impressive selection of architecture on display. Who knew that looking at beautiful mid-20th century buildings would be so soothing? The young female character not only has an interest in the local architecture, but seems to become grounded when she’s in its presence. Scenes are shot straight on, or through door frames, windows, mirrors, and have an oriental feel in their stillness, reminiscent of Yasujirô Ozu. And as first-time feature director Kogonada was writing a PhD dissertation on Ozu prior to becoming a filmmaker, this is not really a surprise.
In amongst the buildings, the beating heart is the exquisite pairing of Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho. There is such warmth between them and the relationship always remains genuine, never sleazy despite the age difference. Cho should really do more different stuff like this. He’s an excellent presence on screen and I enjoyed watching him a lot.