review by Bobby Blakey
In a world of big screen action spectacles, sequels and remakes it is refreshing to see something on a smaller scale from time to time. While films are meant to be an escapism from the real world, some films take you right back into reality. Director Celine Song is making her directorial debut with the film Past Lives starring Greta Lee, Teo Yoo and John Magaro, but does it infuse that real life aspect or will it fail to find itself after so long?
Past Lives follows Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, who 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.
While I had seen the trailer for this film I guess I had a different view to how this was going to play out and elements were there, but this was not that. Let me be clear that wasn’t an issue, but instead a nice surprise to the direction of the storytelling and execution. This is a fantastic film albeit it sad and a bit slow at times which is pretty much real life.
The story plays out in three parts and converge on these child hood friends lives as it showcases the different worlds they live in now. I found myself engage by each time period of their journey with my own thoughts to how it was going to come to fruition and thankfully it did not. Instead of the usual Hollywood tropes it plays on different elements of growth and change in people’s lives yet similarities that linger in us all. The cultures and lifestyle changes are just as big as long distance and changes we go through from kids to adults. All of this is on display here in a film that takes its time to let it all unfold.
There are a lot of layers here with these characters and their feelings and hopes for the future. They all give excellent performances, making you feel what each character is going to through even if just from a glance. Both Lee and Yoo have great chemistry and are the heartbeat of this film, but it’s the subtle moments from Magaro that gives it a bigger emotional punch. It’s almost like he is the audience watching the same story we are and seeing the same concerns and possibilities and unable to control any of it.
Director Song could have had a more Hollywood-esque approach to the story and it would have worked fine, but the intelligent depth and growth used to push these characters stories forward is outstanding. I was so happy and glad I was off with the way the story ended and there is such a gentle and hugely impactful final moment that may not seem like much, but if you can feel and understand what the realizations all around it hits harder from the journey we have just taken.
This is a slow paced movie that fully embraces its title and delivers on every level. I know it might not connect with everyone, but if you allow yourself to take this journey I think you will find something special here.
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes and more. Grab your copy of Past Lives available now on digital, Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.