Brandon White’s review published on Letterboxd:
Kogonada is an interesting director here. He started his introduction by making a bunch of video essays that were showing the highlights of the director's career that were edited very well. The only essay I've seen from him is Linklater: On Cinema & Time, and it had my curiosity about this film. It's great to see that he has done so many film essays because, in his film debut, Kogonada understands how to make such an effective drama about human problems.
Haley Lu Richardson probably gave the best performance that I've seen from her that was such a huge surprise to me. She plays this character that works in a library that graduated from high school, has an idea of what she wants to be, but wants to stay and take care of her mom. She's very likable, she cares so much about the people around her, and is very passionate about architecture.
I relate to the fact that she doesn't want to leave the house to go to college because I had that feeling when I graduated high school. I didn't know what college I wanted to go to, but I also didn't want to go to a college that was very far away from where I live because I feel like I'll be leaving important people behind. In my head, it seemed like it was a selfish thing to do to pursue my career, but luckily I found a way to make it work, so I figured that it's uncommon for a problem to be fixed so easily.
Kogonada also brings out the best of John Cho that shows how well he can do in dramatic roles and not just comedies. The usage of his Korean works so well that serves a purpose to the story and not just use it because it was a cool aspect to have in the movie. He plays as a son to an estranged father who's in a coma, and Jin Lee (John Cho) seemed indifferent to whether his dad lives or dies.
Sadly I do relate with that aspect as well because I used to have a great father/son relationship with my dad, and after seeing him have an affair, that relationship went downhill from here. It had never gotten any better after the affair, and it was at the point where it was completely ruined and there was no attempt of repair. If my dad ever went into a coma or illness, I'll probably have the same thoughts that Jin Lee had or just not show up. It's a terrible thought to have, but it's difficult to be there for your father if my father wasn't there for me in any of the periods I was with him during visitation times after the divorce was final.
The conversations that Jin Lee and Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) have with each other are engaging that I never thought I would be interested in Casey talking about architecture. Not only they talk about architecture, but they also talk about their perspectives on death, college, Jin's father, etc. It's reminiscent of the Before Trilogy that has conversations of life situations and just walking around, but it's a bit more deep-layered on this one. What they talk about could've easily been boring of these complex subjects, but it remains to be so engaging that I'm shocked that it was done in such a personal and heartfelt way. It serves as a progressive arc for both Jin and Casey that helps them understand each other and learn stuff about each other that could help them on the long haul that doesn't lead to anything sensual.
When it comes to architecture, I never thought that it can be used as a way to interpret a character and be its own person. Never have I seen something like that since Ingmar Bergman's films where the interpretation is used to that amount of detail. Even as simple as using two mirrors as a way to show two different perspectives on the manner was so effective that seemed so easy to do when looking at it. You can make so many interpretations over just the architecture like for an example that I saw, the rough bridge that Jin and Casey are in can be interpreted as them going through a bit of a rough patch here.
The score by Hammock was so soothing to listen to that at times, I was speechless because of how good it was that felt uplifting. It was nice seeing Rory Culkin in a role that could've easily been a stoner, but he wasn't, The mother was such an interesting character because she got out of using meth, but there were points that she gives some mixed messages here that you can interpret so much about whether it's just bad parenting, or she was back in using them. Which also leaves one aspect that was interesting about Casey is that she smokes cigarettes in this. It can be a bit of a slippery slope of Casey becoming her mother and possibly going through the same cycle that caused a bunch of problems. Columbus is such a hopeful and mesmerizing film that leaves one hell of a first debut from Kogonada that I can't wait to see his next film that's an A24 film.