I’ve never seen a film as obsessed with symmetry as Columbus. Yes, I’m familiar with Wes Anderson’s oeuvre and its painstakingly perfect set designs, but their primary function is to be, well, sets. Columbus’s attention to detail runs deeper than being aesthetically pleasing.
The composition here is perfect, but not only when architecture is involved. Whenever Jin (John Cho) and Cassandra (Haley Lu Richardson) are together, the camera frames them perfectly symmetrical, Cassandra usually occupying the space to the right, and Jin the left. On the occasions in which the camera captures them on opposing screen sides, it’s usually with a purpose. Their first meeting, in which Jin is on the right and Cassandra on the left, is literally delineated by a steel fence that separates the two, splitting the frame neatly in half.
This mirroring also applies to the plot itself, as both characters have rocky relationships with their parents. Jin resents his dad for making him come back to him, and Cassandra is sad because she doesn’t feel she can leave her mom behind. I wasn’t exaggerating when I began talking about how crazy the uniformity is.
The only downside is that at times everything feels too neat, too much like a movie. Life will never look as it does here. There’s not a wasted shot, which makes things feel a bit artificial from time to time. However, it doesn’t stop it from being an affecting little movie.