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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
September 27 , 2023

REVIEW: A24’s latest film “Past Lives” offers a fresh take on fate

Actress Greta Lee presents the movie "Past Lives" at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2023.
Actress Greta Lee presents the movie "Past Lives" at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2023. Photo credit: Martin Kraft (photo.martinkraft.com), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rising production company A24 adds to their indie film legacy with recent release “Past Lives.”

Known for making intimate, critically-acclaimed indie films, A24 has previously released award-winning movies like “Moonlight” and “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once,” which both won Best Picture at the Oscars. “Past Lives” rises to this legacy as one of their best films yet.

This thoughtful film tells the story of Nora and Hae Sung, two childhood friends from South Korea who are torn apart by life circumstances. Throughout the film, they reconnect at different points of their lives while figuring out their feelings for each other.

The story functions in three parts and uses its nearly two-hour runtime to deftly navigate this complex relationship. Moving from each time period allows the audience to understand the growth and path that the characters have chosen and allows a seamless introduction of Nora’s husband Arthur into the story.

Lead actress Greta Lee stands out as Nora, skillfully conveying all the feelings that her character experiences through these intense moments of reunion and loss. Co-star Teo Yoo as Hae Sung and actor John Magaro as Arthur both hold their own and provide different kinds of chemistry.

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Writer and director Celine Song thoughtfully crafts the conversations that take place between Nora and the two men in her life. The fact that both Nora and Arthur are writers allows them to communicate and summarize big, complex ideas without it seeming out of place.

There are no villains here — just two men that care deeply for Nora, regular people with messy lives.

Though categorized as a romance, the story focuses more about Nora’s immigrant experience — how leaving behind a whole life can drastically change you and your future. Using Arthur and Hae Sung as symbols of her dual identity, “Past Lives” centers around the Korean idea of inyun, or the string of fate that connects people across multiple lifetimes.

This film deftly avoids the typical cliches and pitfalls of many romantic comedies because it isn’t really about a romance at all — it’s about people trying their best to get through the hard, confusing parts of life. Despite how many layers of inyun exist between two people, some things will always remain the same.

Song has peered into the deepest parts of my life and summarized something that even I don’t understand, something that even seasoned writers and directors may struggle with and which could propel Song to genius status.

“Past Lives” is my favorite film so far this year. It feels perfectly made for me. I can relate to her feelings of identity loss and what comes with moving around as a child. Perhaps I have my own Hae Sung somewhere, the “one who got away.”

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