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Release Date: 06/23/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama. Romance.

Studio: A24

"Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, are wrest apart after Nora's family emigrates from South Korea. 20 years later, they are reunited for one fateful week as they confront notions of love and destiny." 


In a world with over 8 billion people, each leading intricate lives of their own, the sheer magnitude of experiences unfolding daily can be overwhelming yet incredibly inspiring. Past Lives, the Sundance Film Festival sensation of this year, beautifully and subtly explores this very idea. While fully cognizant of its identity as a film, Past Lives manages to strike a remarkable balance by crafting an astonishingly authentic narrative that feels profoundly real. It takes a genuine scenario that could easily come from anyone you know and transforms it into a breathtakingly beautiful film that delves into the raw emotions of loss, love, and the unpredictable paths life can take.


The story centers around Nora (Greta Lee), a 12-year-old living in Korea, and her deep friendship with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). Their shared competition for the top spot in class and mutual infatuation form the foundation of their bond. However, when Nora's family moves to Toronto, they lose contact for a staggering 12 years. The film unfolds as they navigate the challenges of reconnection, exploring their enduring connection despite physical separation.


As Nora and Hae Sung resume their conversations as adults, their childhood connection reignites instantly. However, the geographical distance and the demands of their blossoming careers hinder their potential as a couple, embodying the bittersweet essence of "right person, wrong time." Unlike typical films that strive to overcome obstacles and build romantic tension, writer/director Celine Song embraces the realities of life, acknowledging how circumstances often hinder the desires of two individuals longing to be together. It prompts us to reflect on life's choices and what truly matters to us, candidly illustrating that passionate yearning doesn't always guarantee fulfillment.


The film takes a refreshingly realistic approach as Nora's eventual husband, Arthur (John Magaro), becomes entangled in the situation. Delicately balancing healthy support with inevitable feelings of jealousy, Song crafts a robust relationship between Arthur and Nora, seeking a harmonious equilibrium between what could have been and what currently exists. This dynamic resonates deeply with the audience, tapping into personal connections and evoking a powerful emotional response.


While films like Richard Linklater's critically acclaimed "Before Trilogy" have explored similar narratives, Past Lives adopts an almost contrasting approach. It seamlessly weaves all three narratives into a cohesive film, gracefully accompanying the protagonists on their shared journey. In contrast to the romantic fantasy depicted in the "Before Trilogy," Past Lives unflinchingly and achingly acknowledges the harsh realism often associated with such situations.


The film excels in numerous aspects, including exceptional performances by the core trio, a captivating score, and remarkable writing by Celine Song. However, my only reservation lies with the directing. Although Song's directorial debut showcases expert craftsmanship, minor obstacles prevent complete immersion. The somewhat clumsy opening sequence initially challenges engagement, and occasional title cards describing the passage of time briefly disrupt the narrative flow.


Despite these incredibly minor flaws, Past Lives masterfully constructs an emotional journey that surpasses other films of its kind. With a relaxed narrative, it leaves a lasting impact and deepens upon subsequent viewings, evoking a stronger emotional resonance. It has the power to stay with you, eliciting a growing affection as you reflect on its themes and find ways to connect with it emotionally.

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