Past Lives Review

Imagine that you were reconnected with your grade school crush and what that conversation would be like. Imagine that in all the time you were apart they still held a flame for you and were hoping that they can get another chance. Now imagine that you are going to get together with this person but one of you is married and unsure how this meeting will go.

This is basically the premise for Celine Song’s beautiful Past Lives. Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) have kept in touch since her family moved to America from South Korea nearly 20 years ago. While they have remained friends, they both have moved on with their relationships. Nora has married Arthur, a writer, and is nervous and excited about hanging out with Hae Sung while he is in New York.

What Past Lives excels at is showing us the uncomfortableness and familiarity between Nora and Hae Sung. When they were younger they were always competing in class and had a shorthand with each other. Now that they are older it takes them a while to get back into that groove and as an audience member watching you wonder if this is a good thing or not. The chemistry between Greta Lee and Teo Yoo is perfect and you can not take your eyes away from them as they catch up while walking in New York.

Courtesy of A24

There are moments in Past Lives that might feel awkward for the audience and that might have been Celine Song’s purpose to do that. There is a moment when the two men in Nora’s life meet for the first time. As the build-up to this scene approaches you are unsure how the men will react with each other. It’s a touching scene which I won’t give away but the awkwardness between the two actors is real. In a Q&A during the Chicago Critics Film Festival, Celine stated that the two male leads never met each other until that moment in the film. They were purposefully kept apart and only know about each other through information that was given to them by Greta. Their reaction to seeing each other for the first time was captured in that one take.

Past Lives gives us a great “What if..?” question that many of us will probably be left thinking about once the movie is over. Are we content with the lives we have now or are we always going to wonder what could have been? Are our feelings for the loves we had truly gone and have we just settled? There is a moment in the film when Arthur asks Nora if he brings her joy. It’s such a touching moment because although Arthur knows that Nora loves him, he wonders if this meeting with Hae Sung will change his life.

Courtesy of A24

Past Lives is not about a love triangle. The movie is about adults letting go of their past and moving toward their futures. The poetry in the dialogue will haunt you after the movie is done. As much as we would like Nora and Hae Sung to enjoy the rest of their lives together, they understand that they have to let go of their past to move forward. Past Lives is a movie that needs to be experienced. Until next time.

Final Thoughts: Celine Song’s Past Lives paints a beautiful picture of love, acceptance, and closure. The chemistry between Greta Lee and Teo Yoo is palpable that you wonder what could have been. This story will resonate with anyone that has had a close relationship with someone and wonder what happened to that person once they are no longer in their lives. Prepare to cry when viewing this movie.

Kid-Friendly: The relationship between the younger versions of Nora and Hae Sung might remind kids of their relationships with friends at school but the rest of the story might be too slow for them. The themes of starting life somewhere new might connect with kids who move to new areas after school is over. I would recommend this for kids 17 and up.

Violence: There is no violence in this movie.

Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, are wrest apart after Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea. Two decades later, they are reunited in New York for one fateful week as they confront notions of destiny, love, and the choices that make a life, in this heartrending modern romance

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