Past Lives

Verdict: The rave reviews do not lie; Past Lives is one of the best films of the year - if not the best - and should not be missed.

  • Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro
  • September 7th 2023
  • Celine Song

Nora is reunited with her childhood crush Hae Sung in New York City after more than 20 years apart.

One of the best films of 2023 has arrived.

Celine Song’s Past Lives, which has received reviews since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January, stars Greta Lee as Nora, who left South Korea with her family when she was a child and started a new life in Canada.

She leaves behind her childhood best friend and crush Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) and they reconnect in New York City many years later when Nora is married to Arthur (John Magaro).

Past Lives is a beautiful, profound film that will leave you thinking about the what-if scenarios in your own life. What would your life look like if you didn’t make a particular decision? Would you have been happier in that past life than you are now?

People expecting a simple love triangle story will be in for a surprise – this story is far more nuanced, complicated and mature than that and it goes down an unexpected route. The narrative is understated but its power creeps up on you and it delivers an emotional wallop at the end.

All three characters are complex, convincing and realistic. You can understand why Nora is conflicted – Arthur is a kind, supportive husband but there is so much history between her and Hae Sung.

Lee deserves an Oscar nomination for her subtle and authentic performance. Nora doesn’t say how she truly feels very often but Lee conveys it all perfectly with her eye contact and body language.

Yoo and Magaro also deliver affecting performances – Yoo believably brings the awkwardness inherent in seeing someone you’ve loved from afar for a long time while Magaro plays an incredibly sweet and understanding husband.

But the film isn’t just about these relationships – it also follows Nora as she tries to make it as a playwright in New York and explores her identity; she feels too Korean with her American friends and too American with Hae Sung.

The rave reviews do not lie; Past Lives is one of the best films of the year – if not the best – and should not be missed.

In cinemas from Thursday 7th September.

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