Celine Song’s Past Lives follows the relationship between two childhood friends, Na Young/Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). As classmates, they compete for top marks in school and walk home together every day. This changes when Na Young’s family immigrates to Canada.
Twelve years later, Na Young, now Nora, hunts Facebook for former childhood friends and finds Hae Sung. They connect and begin talking on Skype. When neither of them can commit to visiting each other, Nora suggests they don’t talk anymore so she can focus on her writing. Another twelve years pass, and Nora is married to a fellow writer, Arthur (John Magaro). Hae Sung emails her, telling her he’s travelling to New York for a vacation. Arthur speculates that the visit isn’t a vacation but purely so Hae Sung can visit Nora. After Hae Sung and Nora spend the day together, Nora confirms to Arthur that his suspicion is correct. The next evening, they all go to a bar where they talk about the concept of In-Yun, the idea that everyone meets in past lives. Hae Sung and Nora talk about the what-ifs in Korean, while Arthur is left out of the conversation. After their late night, Nora waits with Hae Sung for his Uber to the airport, and they share an emotional farewell.
I was very wary going into this film. It was advertised hard on social media and only had positive reviews. I was afraid it was highly overrated and not all that great. It was great though, probably one of the year’s best films for me thus far. In a sea of bloated films, this film was clear, concise, and focused on the main plot. It was emotionally engaging and held your attention the entire time with a tiny cast.
Many people can relate to the situation where you have hunted for people you knew as a child on Facebook and got the opportunity to reconnect. The awkwardness of meeting in person after several years was palpable and real. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo were so good together. Their characters both said so much with no words. The acting alone in the last scene was so good; I keep thinking about it.
I liked this film because of the way it ended. It wasn’t typical or what you may have been expecting. The best thing, I think, was that Nora had zero regrets about how everything turned out. It was great to see a character who had no regrets about her life.
Celine Song’s script and directing were so good for a first outing, and I can’t wait to see her next film! In the end, Past Lives did live up to the hype, and I am on that hype train. It was refreshing and a great watch. I wish I could go see it again in theaters.
Past Lives will be released in the UK September 2023
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I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.