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Past Lives 12A

Celine Song, South Korea, USA, 2023, 106m.

Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, are wrest apart after Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea. Twelve years later, Nora, now a playwriting student in New York, reconnects with Hae Sung online; they begin talking frequently, and even imagine a reunion. But another dozen years pass before they finally meet over a few fateful days in New York.

An aching, deeply romantic debut feature from playwright Celine Song (Endlings), Past Lives is a love story - indeed, several - told across three moments in time. Song’s artful aesthetic and profound character writing, and the spellbinding performances she draws from Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro, explore love, identity, and In Yun, a Korean notion of fate stemming from two people’s connection in a past life.

The Garden Cinema View:

Past Lives is a refreshing reinvention of the ‘romance genre’ that rejects current trends of postmodern cynicism. Celine Song examines the intricacies of love with nuance and emotional intelligence: Is love found in harmonious, long-term, cohabitation or in a platonic affair that never materialised? Or is it a version of a life not lived, just as Nora's Korean identity has been lost? Song dives into the complexity of her subject, unafraid to confront painful moments and move us deeply.

Nora's migration story runs like an undercurrent throughout the film. The film explores the idea that diasporic people may have multiple selves: a country of origin self, and a country of destination self, speaking a different language, both identities present and not mutually exclusive.

Past Lives, allows us to discover feelings we didn't realize we had. This is a gorgeous, entertaining film that deserves all the attention it has been receiving and is possibly a future classic.

Greta Lee, Yoo Teo, John Magaro, Moon Seung-a

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