Columbus (2017 film)

Columbus is a 2017 American drama film written, directed, and edited by Kogonada in his feature directorial debut. The film follows the son of a renowned architecture scholar (John Cho) who gets stranded in Columbus, Indiana, and strikes up a friendship with a young architecture enthusiast (Haley Lu Richardson) who works at the local library. Michelle Forbes, Rory Culkin, and Parker Posey appear in supporting roles. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the United States on August 4, 2017, by the Sundance Institute, receiving acclaim from critics.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byKogonada
Produced by
Written byKogonada
Music byHammock
CinematographyElisha Christian
Edited byKogonada
  • Depth of Field
  • Nonetheless Productions
  • Superlative Films
Distributed bySundance Institute
Release date
  • January 22, 2017 (2017-01-22) (Sundance)
  • August 4, 2017 (2017-08-04) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.1 million[3]


In Columbus, Indiana, Jin arrives from South Korea to watch over his estranged father who, while visiting the town to give a lecture about architecture, has fallen into a coma and is now in a local hospital. Jin meets Casey, a young woman who works in a library near the hospital. Casey takes care of her mother, a recovering drug addict.

Casey and Jin strike up rapport, as Casey guides Jin around Columbus. The two discuss the local architecture while simultaneously opening up about themselves to each other. Jin reveals his feelings of resentment toward his father, whom Jin believes to have cared more about work than for him. Casey also opens up about her dream of working in the architecture industry. However, she confesses that she cannot leave her mother in order to pursue it. Jin advises that it is her life and that Casey is holding herself back.

One night, Casey and Jin are wandering around Columbus when Casey discovers that her mother had been lying to her, and has perhaps relapsed. Following this incident, Casey comes to the conclusion that it is in her best interest to move on and decides to leave Columbus and pursue her dream. Jin and Casey share a tender hug goodbye and Casey leaves, while Jin stays behind to watch over his ailing father.


  • John Cho as Jin Lee. A Korean-American who works in South Korea translating literature to English.
  • Haley Lu Richardson as Casey. A recent high school graduate and library worker caring for her mother while dreaming of being an architect.
  • Parker Posey as Eleanor. Jae Yong Lee's longtime assistant for whom Jin has harbored feelings in the past.
  • Michelle Forbes as Maria. Casey's working-class mother, who is a recovering drug addict.
  • Rory Culkin as Gabriel. A doctoral student and coworker friend of Casey's.
  • Erin Allegretti as Emma. A high school friend of Casey.
  • Shani Salyers Stiles as Vanessa. Maria's coworker.
  • Joseph Anthony Foronda as Jae Yong Lee. Jin's father and an acclaimed architecture professor who falls into a coma.


The film began shooting on July 31, 2016, and concluded on August 20, 2016.[4] The film was shot on location in Columbus, Indiana, over 18 days.[5]

Kogonada was inspired by director Yasujirō Ozu, particularly his 1951 film Early Summer, incorporating elements of his style and shot selection into Columbus. He notes the similar use of negative space in Columbus, explaining that "architecture is the structuring of emptiness", which he compares to that of human emotion.[6]


Among the famous Modernist buildings that feature in the film are the First Christian Church by Eliel Saarinen, the Irwin Union Bank, Miller House, and North Christian Church by Eliel's son Eero Saarinen, and the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I. M. Pei.[7] For more information see Columbus, Indiana.

Kogonada visited Columbus on holiday. Inspired by the city's architecture, he stated that he "deeply wanted it to be a part of the first film I made".[8] He describes the buildings there as having "an extraordinary premise for drama" and that the architecture of which forms the common ground between Jin and Casey when they are first introduced.[9]


Columbus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
Released3 November 2017 (2017-11-03)
GenreFilm score
LabelHammock Music

Kogonada sought out Hammock to create the soundtrack for Columbus after reading an interview with the band, claiming "they were talking about the relationship between absence and presence in their music – which was a mind-blowing moment – and I thought, ‘They have to be the music for this film.’"[10]

Track listing

All music is composed by Hammock.

Total length:45:24


The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017.[1][11] The film was released on August 4, 2017, by the Sundance Institute[12] The film was later released in the United Kingdom and Ireland, on October 5, 2018.[13]

Box officeEdit

Columbus had a domestic opening weekend gross of $28,800 from two theaters, one located in New York City and the other located in Los Angeles, averaging $14,400 per theater.[14] In its second weekend of release, Columbus grossed $44,460 from seven theaters, averaging $6,351 per theater.[15] In its third weekend of release, Columbus grossed $44,450 from twelve theaters, averaging $3,705 per theater.[16]

In Columbus, Indiana, the setting of the film, Columbus sold a record breaking 8,953 tickets over the course of a six-week local run playing at the "YES Cinema". The previous record holder was The King's Speech with 3,700 tickets sold over a nine-week run.[17]

Internationally, the film grossed $75,970 following release; $13,824 gross total in Portugal; $6,671 gross total in the United Kingdom; $55,475 gross total in South Korea.[18]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97% based on 124 reviews, with an average rating of 8.29/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Wonderfully acted and artfully composed, Columbus balances the clean lines of architecture against the messiness of love, with tenderly moving results."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 89 out of 100, based on reviews from 27 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[20]

Haley Lu Richardson was praised for her performance in the film with Brian Formo of Collider writing "Richardson puts the story on her shoulders and elevates the film into a beguiling, thin air. She lends the beautiful but empty buildings a beating heart"[21] while Oliver Jones of The New York Observer commended Richardson's "naturalism".[22] John Cho received praise as well, with Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly writing that "Cho gives Jin a real warmth and empathy".[23] Other critics, such as Geoff Berkshire of Variety, praised the leading pair of Cho and Richardson. Berkshire wrote that "At the center of it all, amid the buildings, are Cho and Richardson. One veteran demonstrating his untapped ability as a captivatingly sincere leading man, and one relative newcomer proving her ability of holding the screen with maximum soulfulness in a minimalist drama. Together they form an unexpected, but perfectly constructed, pair."[11]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "How do you make a ravishing romance about architecture? You'll find the answer with Kogonada, the video essayist and critic whose debut feature, Columbus, is a spellbinder." Wrapping up his review, Travers concluded that "Columbus is a whisper-soft debut from Kogonada that nonetheless results in something unique and unforgettable. It's pure cinema." [24] In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij called the film a "quietly masterful feature debut" for Kogonada and wrote, "One of the film's chief pleasures is how it keeps the conversation between the various characters flowing while gently avoiding falling into any of the possible romantic-entanglement traps that viewers used to more conventional romantic works might be expecting. The fact it is accessible for people without any prior knowledge of either Modernism or architecture in general is another plus, though the film's clearly too thoughtful and quietly masterful to ever qualify as a real crowd-pleaser."[1]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Gotham Independent Film Awards November 27, 2017 Best Actress Haley Lu Richardson Nominated [25]
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Kogonada Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Golden Tomato Awards January 3, 2018 Best Drama Movie 2017 Columbus 5th Place [26]
Independent Spirit Awards March 3, 2018 Best First Feature Columbus Nominated [27]
Best First Screenplay Kogonada Nominated
Best Cinematography Elisha Christian Nominated
Piaget Producers Award Giulia Caruso and Ki Jin Kim Nominated

Top Ten ListsEdit

Columbus was listed as one of the best films of the year by several critics. This is a sampling.[28][29]


  1. ^ a b c Boyd van Hoeij (January 27, 2017). "'Columbus' Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  2. ^ Lapin, Andrew (March 18, 2018). "Didn't Get That Theatrical Deal? The Sundance Creative Fellowship Wants You to Consider Self-Distribution". IndieWire. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "Columbus (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  4. ^ ‘Columbus’ independent film puts city’s landmarks in Hollywood spotlight
  5. ^ Brooks, Brian (August 4, 2017). "Sundance Hits 'Step' & Taylor Sheridan's 'Wind River' Blow Into Theaters – Specialty B.O. Preview". Deadline. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  6. ^ "This Movie Might Be "The Answer" To #StarringJohnCho". Vice News. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  7. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (April 20, 2018). "Columbus – Review". Ebertfest: Roger Ebert's Film Festival.
  8. ^ Buder, emily. "'Columbus': Video Essayist Kogonada on His Stunning Feature Debut and Why Critics Should Make Movies". Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  9. ^ Brady, Richard. "The Precocious Genius of "Columbus"". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  10. ^ "Columbus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Hammock Music. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Berkshire, Geoff (January 29, 2017). "'Columbus' Film Review: John Cho's Indie Romance". Variety. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  12. ^ Blair, Brian (May 4, 2017). "Sundance to help distribute 'Columbus' movie". Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  13. ^ Columbus Debuts New Trailer Ahead of its UK Release
  14. ^ Brooks, Brian (August 6, 2017). "Taylor Sheridan's 'Wind River' Opens Robust – Specialty Box Office". Deadline. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  15. ^ Brooks, Brian (August 13, 2017). "'Ingrid Goes West' Scores A Top 2017 Average – Specialty Box Office". Deadline. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  16. ^ Brooks, Brian (August 20, 2017). "Samuel Goldwyn's 'Gook' Tops Newcomers – Specialty Box Office". Deadline. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  17. ^ Blair, Brian (October 16, 2017). "Record-setting local run of 'Columbus' ends — for now". TheRepublic. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  18. ^ "Columbus Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  19. ^ "Columbus (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  20. ^ "Columbus reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  21. ^ "'Columbus' Review: Haley Lu Richardson Lends Immense Heart to Architecture Porn | BAMFest". Collider. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  22. ^ Jones, Oliver (August 3, 2017). "Quiet 'Columbus' is a Cinematic Love Story for Modernist Architecture". Observer. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  23. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (August 4, 2017). "'Columbus' is a charming and beautiful indie debut: EW review". Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  24. ^ Travers, Peter (August 3, 2017). "Peter Travers: 'Columbus' Is a Modern-Day 'Before Sunrise'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  25. ^ Erbland, Kate (October 19, 2017). "'Get Out' Leads 2017 Gotham Awards Nominations". IndieWire. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  26. ^ "Golden Tomato Awards - Best of 2017". Rotten Tomatoes. January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  27. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 21, 2017). "Spirit Award Nominations: 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Lady Bird', 'Get Out', 'The Rider', 'Florida Project' Best Pics". Deadline. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  28. ^ "Best of 2017: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  29. ^ "Sam Mauro's Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2017". Retrieved December 29, 2017.

Additional SourcesEdit

External linksEdit