Within the first two minutes of this film, director Kogonada knocks you off your feet with his commitment to symmetry. The visual symmetry in each shot mirrors a dramatic parallelism drawn between the lives of two people struggling to break free from the past. Casey is a recent high school grad and architecture enthusiast who has forgone going to college in order to take care of her unstable mother in Columbus, Ohio. When Jin finds himself stuck in Columbus after his father, an acclaimed architect, falls into a coma, he meets Casey, and their relationship develops in a quiet narrative as Casey takes Jin on a tour of her favorite buildings in the city. With a soundtrack that’s barely there, the film relies on spatial and auditory dialogue to carry its momentum, featuring exquisitely restrained performances by John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson. Through Casey and Jin’s twin stories, Columbus grapples with modernist anxiety both in its architectural and personal dimensions: is it possible to develop enough independence from our environment to leave the past behind? Kogonada uses the city’s wealth of modernist architecture as a constant visual reminder of the tension between the past and the present as this same tension develops on a personal level in the lives of the characters.
Lara Forsythe is a senior studying English and French.