This film was watched as a part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Past Lives had its Seattle Premier on Thursday, May 11 2023 as the OPENING FILM of the festival.
People seem to really like A24 released movies. I am a people. I really like A24 movies. It fits! Or at least this is mostly true for the films that people have seen. For example, When You Finish Saving The World apparently came out this year, directed by Jesse Eisenberg, with some famous people, and frankly I have never heard of that one. Might not be the best.
But what about Past Lives? This one made by a first time director, with strong international themes? Well, if it is anything like Everything Everywhere All At Once, the people will love it. [Editor’s note: This is a joke, because it is absolutely nothing like Everything Everywhere All At Once, not even the same ethnicity of actors.]
But there is a boat, and in EEAAO there was… oh, no boats.
Inyeon is a Korean word and a Korean philosophy, that seems to run pretty deep down into their culture. Well, at least according to this film. One definition calls it “the ties between two people over the course of their lives.” It can be a sort of love, that describes vary different amounts of love. From spousal love, to the love between parent and child, friendships, or even a small conversation once on a train. According to this film, it also refers to these meetings and connections across past lives of the people, when their soul was in another body. People they interact with they will keep interacting with in future generations, without knowing their long past. And it can grow over time. This is what I got out of the word, at least.
Nora (Greta Lee) moved out of South Korea when she was about 12, to live in the US because it was going to be better for her family. She would have more opportunities. She had a crush on a boy at the time, they were the smartest two in their class, but that didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. They moved on and forgot about each other. Or did they.
12 years later, they reconnect, still on opposite sites of the world. They found each other on social media, and would talk all of the time on Skype. About their lives, their goals, their loves, and their ambitions. Constantly. Until it stopped.
And finally, 12 years later again, Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) is going to visit NYC, to see Nora. And see her husband (John Magaro). And see the sites. And see that maybe they are a hidden love, or maybe destiny had something else in mind for them.
Also starring Moon Seung-ah as Young Nora.
I was only given one real still to use for the review so here is a poster screen grab yay.
Seriously, Past Lives is so unlike EEAAO that if anyone tries to make a comparison, they clearly didn’t see one or both of the movies. Don’t let it happen.
Past Lives is a slower film. One that really wants you to sit with the characters, and get in their mood and in their head. It is an UNCOMFORTABLE film for that same reason. The situation our leads are in IS weird. Is it destiny for them to keep coming back together? Or are they forcing something that just cannot work. Is it nostalgia? Is it unfinished business? Do they even want to be together? And let’s not forget about that husband.
Because this movies forces you to be in these uncomfortable conversations and situations, you really don’t know what you want or expect from the leads. Is this a typical romance film? Is this a sad drama? Neither direction feels like the right direction, and to be honest, the only people who could decide the right direction are two fictional characters. I am feeling anxiety from their dilemma that is not just forced, but is made up and shouldn’t affect me in the slightest.
But the film is powerful in its draw, and one that you cannot escape.
I also need to highlight just how beautiful and well shot this movie is. So many long shots taken, or our actors from a distance so we can see the surroundings better, where direction and flow matter greatly to the story. I think the camera work is better the actual story, which is no slouch. And the acting from our three leads is great. A good amount of uncomfortable never hurt someone. It just made me want to cry.