⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ (out of five)
Since its Sundance premiere, Celine Song’s powerful debut has hit audiences with all the feels. Having screened at Berlinale and Sydney, and now in limited release in the US, the film has charmed and heartbroken audiences worldwide.
The film follows Na Young and Hae Sung, childhood friends and academic rivals in their Korean school. Their budding childhood romance is prematurely ended when Na Young emigrates with her family to Canada, adopting the name Nora for her new life. Twelve years later, Nora (Greta Lee) is a student in New York working on becoming a writer, while Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) is doing military service in Korea. An intriguing social media query leads to an online reunion for the two. Catching up on a video call leads to further appointments, and love is again on the cards. Flashing forward a further 12 years sees Hae Sung and Nora finally reunited in New York, when Hae Sung decides to visit the city for a week. By now, Nora is happily married to Arthur (John Magaro). Still, this decades-later reunion raises the inevitable question of destiny and what might have been.
It’s a deeply reflective film that builds itself upon the Korean concept of In-Yun, this passing of each other in previous lives that steadily accumulates and contributes to every future live interaction. There’s a hope and a sorrow about these interactions. A belief they will be better, but a recognition that that isn’t the case right now. There is also such a profound depth to the gazing looks that are exchanged in this film. Song intimately captures the loving gaze of two people with such shared passion and sorrow. Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro are all vulnerable and gentle. The film handles deeply complex concepts around love, loss, and longing. It’s an emotionally poignant film that leaves you feeling both sad and happy, drained yet at peace. It’s a film about closure and recognising that life changes us, the people we love change, and how we love them evolve. Many will be blown away by the central three actors, the writing, the direction, and the sensitive score.
Aching, beautiful, and poetic, Past Lives is a sensitive and poignant exploration of love, adoration, and devotion amidst the ebbs and flow of life. Celine Song’s film's distractions, aspirations, and devastations with an ensemble whose emotive eyes speak louder than words and pry into the soul. What an incredible debut and easily one of 2023’s best films.
Reel Dialogue: How do we deal with heartbreak?
One of the blessings and difficulties of being human is the complexity of our emotions. The range from happy to sad to mad to everything in between can be overwhelming to navigate. We often don’t have the words to express what we are feeling.
The Prince of Preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon, once spoke of crying and tears as the language God gave us to express that which we cannot verbalise in words. God, has not only gifted us with tears, but with His Word in the Psalms. These songs and poems are a treasury that gives us words to pray, sing and adopt to verbalise all the emotions we may be feeling. They are a prescriptive model of responding to God in the face of a tidal wave of tears. Lament is not a weakness that demonstrates a lack of faith. It is the opposite. It is the crying out to the one whom we have faith in to be in control. Have you adopted these words as your own in times of heartbreak?
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18
The word becomes film
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