Columbus (2017) Film Review: Appreciating Kogonada’s Directorial Debut

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Kogonada’s Columbus: A Dreamlike Exploration of Life, Love, and Lost Souls

Kogonada’s Columbus is a mesmerizing cinematic journey that delves into the theme of finding oneself amidst life’s unpredictable twists and the profound impact we have on each other. While it may be referred to as a love story, this film surprises viewers by highlighting the profound lessons and love for life itself that the characters impart on one another. It resonates with those who feel lost and uncertain about their purpose on Earth, assuring them that their personal journeys are more universal than they may think.

The Quintessential Characters of Columbus

The story revolves around Casey (played by Haley Lu Richardson), a young enthusiast of architecture, who resides with her recovering mother and works at a local library while searching for her path in life. On the other hand, Jin (played by John Cho) is the son of a distinguished scholar, urgently summoned to Indiana from Korea when his father falls ill during their journey.

Despite their contrasting backgrounds, Casey and Jin share a deep passion for architecture. Through shared experiences, Jin captivates Casey with stories of his father’s architectural achievements, while Casey imparts her knowledge of the town’s architectural wonders. As their bond grows, they recognize the similarities in their struggles – family issues, troubled pasts, and identity crises – ultimately revealing the interconnectedness of their individual challenges.

Natural Conversations and Engaging Dynamics

One of the striking aspects of Columbus lies in its authentic and natural conversations between the central characters. These calm and unhurried exchanges effortlessly draw viewers into the complex lives and unique dynamics of Casey and Jin. The relatability of their interactions stems from the expert screenplay penned by Kogonada, expertly capturing their mannerisms, dialects, and idiosyncrasies.

The film’s narrative structure defies traditional conventions, relying instead on its ethereal atmosphere to emotionally resonate with audiences, rather than being driven solely by a stringent plot. Kogonada’s masterful direction creates a tapestry of emotions, beautifully interwoven with the intricate artistry of Elisha Christian’s cinematography.

An Artistic Tapestry: Cinematography and Visual Poetry

Collaborating with the director, Elisha Christian’s cinematography adds another layer of complexity to Columbus. Her precise and acute vision unveils the hypnotic tone of the narrative, transforming abstract concepts into visual poetry. With meticulous framing, detailed lighting, and carefully chosen colors, each shot becomes an artistic expression, stimulating the viewer’s imagination and unraveling several visual puzzles throughout the film.

Lost Souls and Inner Connections

Above all, Columbus centers on Casey and Jin, two lost souls navigating their lives with mutual support and understanding. While elements of romance and friendship are present, the film’s true strength lies in conveying the introspective connection these characters forge within themselves. It embraces the ambiguity of life, acknowledging that certain phenomena evade logic or intellectual understanding, instead requiring a personal sense of purpose and longing.

Columbus may evoke relatable and sometimes somber emotions, yet it ultimately provides warmth and solace in unexpected ways. It invites viewers to explore the intricate depths of self-discovery and reminds us that life’s complexities cannot be reduced to simple dichotomies.


Kogonada’s Columbus transcends the boundaries of conventional storytelling, immersing audiences in a dreamlike exploration of life, love, and the enigmatic journey of self-discovery. Through the chemistry between the remarkable performances of Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho, coupled with the visual richness created by Elisha Christian’s cinematography, the film creates an emotional resonance that lingers long after the credits roll.


1. What is the central message of Columbus?

Columbus reminds us of the profound interconnectedness of human experiences and the power of personal journeys to shape our lives.

2. How does Columbus differ from traditional love stories?

Columbus goes beyond conventional romance, focusing on the transformative love and lessons that characters impart on each other regarding life itself.

3. What sets Casey and Jin apart as compelling characters?

Casey and Jin are portrayed with remarkable depth and complexity, showcasing genuine human qualities, even when faced with difficult decisions and unearthing uncomfortable truths.

4. How does the cinematography contribute to the film’s allure?

Elisha Christian’s cinematography elevates Columbus to a visual masterpiece, enveloping viewers in a hypnotic atmosphere, while meticulously crafted shots stimulate contemplation and ignite the imagination.

5. How does Columbus challenge our understanding of life’s complexities?

Columbus embraces the notion that life cannot be neatly categorized, demonstrating that some aspects can only be comprehended by embracing personal longing and a sense of purpose, rather than relying on logic alone.