Past lives

Past lives
Original title:Past lives
Director:Celine Song
Running time:106 minutes
Release date:30 june 2023
At the age of 12, Nora and Hae Sung are childhood friends and platonic lovers. Circumstances separate them. At 20, chance brings them together again, for a time. At 30, they meet again as adults, confronted with what they might have been, and what they might become.

Mulder's Review

Past Lives, Céline Song's directorial debut, weaves a complex and emotional tapestry of love, loss and the eternal search for bonds that transcend time. Set against the backdrop of New York City, this poignant drama delves into the lives of three people whose paths cross in unexpected and profound ways, exploring themes of fate, regret and the enduring power of human relationships.

The film introduces us to Na-young (Seung Ah Moon) and Hae-sung (Seung Min Yim), childhood friends whose lives are changed forever when Na-young's family moves to Canada. The story's opening chapters deftly capture the innocence and intensity of young love, painting a vivid picture of their vibrant bond. The chemistry between the young actors is palpable, their performances drawing viewers into the comforting but fleeting world of teenage romance.

The story then leaps forward in time, tracing the divergent paths of Na-young and Hae-sung over a period of two decades. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo step into the shoes of their adult counterparts, imbuing their characters with a sense of longing and nostalgia. The passage of time is deftly rendered by costumes and sets, underscoring the transformation that life's experiences bring.

The heart of Past Lives lies in the exploration of the emotional complexity that arises when Hae-sung and Na-young, now Nora, reconnect after years of separation. Greta Lee delivers a tour-de-force performance, capturing the essence of a woman torn between the love of her past and the commitments of her present. Teo Yoo, as Hae-sung, brings a quiet intensity to the screen, embodying the weight of missed opportunities and unresolved emotions. John Magaro, as Arthur, the supportive and understanding husband, infuses his character with depth and empathy.

Director Céline Song's theatrical training is evident in the film's deliberate pacing and thoughtful framing. Each scene is meticulously crafted, with visual metaphors that add depth to the narrative. Mirrors become symbolic reflections of the characters' inner struggles, while the New York City landscape serves as both backdrop and metaphor for the characters' journeys. The film's cinematography, directed by Shabier Kirchner, captures the energy and diversity of the city, amplifying the characters' emotions against a vibrant urban backdrop.

One of the film's most striking moments is a seemingly ordinary encounter on a city sidewalk, which turns into a hypnotic display of contained tension. The exchange between Nora and Hae-sung, laden with unspoken words and repressed emotions, is a masterclass in acting and staging. The use of long takes and close-ups intensifies the emotional impact, resulting in a scene that remains etched in the memory long after the credits roll.

Past Lives is not just a love story, but a profound meditation on the complexity of human relationships. The film seamlessly blends elements of romance, philosophy and nostalgia to create a multi-layered narrative that resonates deeply with its audience. By interweaving past and present, Past Lives underscores the universal truth that the choices we make and the bonds we forge reverberate through time, shaping our destinies in ways we may not fully understand. 

Past Lives is also a poignant reminder that the power of storytelling lies in its ability to capture the essence of human experience. Céline Song's directorial debut is an undeniable success, inviting viewers to reflect on their own pasts, contemplate the paths not taken and appreciate the intricate threads that weave the fabric of our lives.

Past lives
Written and directed by Celine Song
Produced by David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler
Starring Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro
Cinematography : Shabier Kirchner
Edited by Keith Fraase
Music by Christopher Bear, Daniel Rossen
Production companies: CJ ENM, Killer Films, 2AM
Distributed by A24
Release dates : January 21, 2023 (Sundance),June 30 2023 (United States), December 13 2023 (France)
Running time : 106 minutes

Seen September 2 2023 at Deauville international center

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