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Featured Movie Reviews

Past Lives

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

It's been a very long time since I've seen a Writing/Directing debut as perfect as Celine Song's PAST LIVES.

Covering decades in the lives of a young couple, the film feels like you're intruding on real lives and all the twists that fate delivers.

We meet Nora and Hae Sung as 12 year old children in Korea. Competing for top academic awards, Nora is fragile and Hae Sung is her comforter.

Young actors Moon Seung-ah and Leem Seung-min are terrific as the youngsters, teeing up the emotions of characters that we'll follow for decades as their confidence levels swap places.

When Nora's filmmaker parents decide to immigrate to Canada, the two young friends are suddenly separated.

Flashing forward 12 years, Nora (Greta Lee from "Money Monster") is living on her own in New York. She's an emerging writer looking for her voice and a Pulitzer. Online with her sister one evening, they are searching for childhood friends.

On a whim, she searches for Hae Sung and discovers that he was recently looking for her on her famous father's website. She's intrigued and returns his inquiry.

Hae Sung (perfectly played by Teo Yoo) is still in school, hanging with his friends and living at home. He's thrilled to reconnect with Nora.

Song creates a masterful middle section of the film as the two twenty-somethings carry on a relationship on Skype. We can see they're falling in love.

In a lesser film with hack writing, they would have conflicts based on him living at home and her being on her own in NYC. But the conversations feel authentic, with all the quiet pauses and hesitant commitment that they would naturally entail.

When Nora is about to embark on a writing retreat and Hae Sung is headed for his final studies in Shanghai, the two, almost on a whim, decide to take a break.

Flash forward another 12 years and the two are in very different places in their lives.

Nora is now a playwright in search of a Tony, married to American writer Arthur, played by John Magaro (Overlord, The Big Short). Hae Sung is an engineer in Korea about to embark on a week-long vacation to New York City.

Is he coming specifically to see Nora?

How will the two interact when they see each other in the same city for the first time in 24 years?

How will Arthur react to Nora's first childhood crush visiting?

In Song's talented hands, there isn't a false moment, or a predictable one for that matter.

The last 30 minutes of the movie is the most pitch perfect big screen romanticism since Warren Beatty and Julie Christie's final scene in 1978's "Heaven Can Wait".

And yet, Nora and Hae Sung's path couldn't be more different.

Beautifully made, the film feels like a travelogue to South Korea blended with a Woody Allen-esque love for NYC and all its boroughs.

One of the best movies of 2023, PAST LIVES will touch your heart while it makes you think. That magic chemistry alone makes Song one to watch and earns her film debut as writer/director an A+.

I'll be shocked if she's not nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 2024 Oscars.

What a beautiful movie.

(In Korean with Subtitles & English)

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Unknown member
Jul 04, 2023

Past Lives is one of my favorite films in the past 3 years. Really well done and sucks you in with a beautiful and simple story.

Unknown member
Jul 04, 2023
Replying to

Agreed, Aaron. It's really a beautiful film. Still thinking about it!

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