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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
Past Lives
| Monday, 06.19.2023, 08:16 PM |   (409 views)

Past Lives, Celine Song's feature film Directorial debut, is a beautiful film that feels small and independent, which usually relegates it to art-house distribution.  But it deserves so much more and I hope it finds it's audience.  Anyone who has been forced to leave their past behind can and will relate to this "what if..." love story.

And there's no mistaking that Past Lives is a lost-love story.  Will the love between Nora and Hae Sung (Greta Lee and Teo Yoo) first blossomed when they were children, be reignited when more than 20 years have passed? When they're in different countries, with new lives and have had decades of new experiences?  

The past is comforting, the future is unknowable.  In the present, Nora has made a new life for herself in NY as a budding playwright, following in the footsteps of her artist/film director parents.  It's been 12 years since she and her family emigrated to Canada from Seoul.  Twelve years since she and Hae Sung parted ways on the steps of her street.  Twelve years since they had their first 'playdate', orchestrated by their respective moms.  

Now, 12 years after their separation, Nora and Hae meet up digitally, and exchange flirty, self-revealing zoom calls.  Eventually, Nora suggests that Hae come to NY.  Hae pushes for Nora to come back to Seoul.  Neither of them budges, and Nora decides that their new friendship needs a break. 

The break extends for another 12 years.  During that time, Nora has acquired Arthur (Joe Magaro), her steady, live-in boyfriend who believes Nora is too good for him.  In Seoul, Hae has gone through a series of relationships, none of which have lasted.  

And then Hae decides to come to NY, to see if the past-life magic, their 'inyun', can be sparked back to life.  It's apparent that Hae is the one who keeps reaching out toward Nora.  Nora finds it flattering, and can't resist the temptation to dive into the "what ifs", but she does love Arthur, who she met at a writer's retreat 12 years ago, just after she called off the budding 'zoom-ance'.  Once she explains 'inyun' to him, Arthur is unsure if it was just luck that placed he and Nora together, or if there were other forces, perhaps their past lives, at work.  Even though Nora tells him that 'inyun' is just a con used in Korea to seduce someone. 

Do we get to recreate our past lives until you're one with the person the universe has decided is your inyun, bashert if you're Jewish, pratitya-samutpada if Buddhist.  Upon meeting someone new, is there something to the feeling that you've known them your entire life?  Or is it just the combining of past similarities that give present circumstances the feeling of being kindred spirits? From where does that feeling of enduring connection arise?  

But far more relatable than the love story is the deeper meaning in Past Lives.  That is, the loss we all feel when we finally close a door to our past. The good memories you share with others, who you may not even be in contact with, live forever in the past, in a hazy-golden glow.  The sadness and nostalgia that overwhelms.  Such as when your parents pass away, if you have no siblings, what happens to person who you once were? Are they gone forever?  When you emigrate to a new country, does your previous life lose meaning? 

Song acknowledges that this story came from her personal experience. Remembering the last time you did something, saw someone.  Not knowing at the time that it was going to be the last time.  And there is no one who can't relate to that feeling of loss.  Though it hurts, Past Lives acknowledges that feeling.  That now, in your deepest core, knowing that those moments, those people, are now suspended forever in amber. 

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor and Movie Reviewer for In  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for WESH2 News and WKMG News.  She also edits on-air promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, a highly-rated nationally syndicated news and information program.  For more than 30 years she has covered the Florida Film Festival and the World Peace Film Festival, with additional experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at MTV Networks.  She was previously a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper.

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