Celine Songs’ ‘Past Lives’, A Bittersweet Tale Of What Ifs With Teo Yoo & Greta Lee’s Heartwarming Performances | Movies News


New Delhi: “In Yeon“ is a word a Korean that translates as providence or fate, but also specifically holds for relationships, between people. After all nothing in life is a coincidence, we are fated to meet the people we encounter, be it lovers or strangers we pass by on the street.

Filmmaker Celine Song’s critically acclaimed and decorated “Past Lives”, won hearts for its bittersweet yet lyrically moving narrative as it captures the eternity of love and the invisible connections formed between humans.

The story of two childhood friends  Na Young aka Nora( Greta Lee) and her “cheot-sarang” (first love in Korean) Hae Sung( Teo Yoo) who meet 24 years later in New York. The situation was very different from their teen years when they viewed life from the rapturous eyes of the young.

It is obvious the two have different dreams and aspirations, Na Young aspires to be a writer, and the move to Canada is the perfect opportunity, she responds to Hae Sung’s query on why they need to move with a “Koreans don’t win a noble prize for literature”.

Na Young and her family adapt to their new life, even taking Americanised names. Na Young is Nora and a budding writer. Over the years the communication between the two friends breaks down, until a chance encounter on social media. Hae Sung’ who is a white collared office worker and still single, is shy and conscious as the two start reconnecting all over again. 

In the meantime, Nora on a writer’s retreat meets Arthur. It is “In Yeon”. Arthur is a writer, and the two form an instant connection and get married. Marriage is also an opportunity for Nora to get a green card.

 Hae Sung informs Nora that he will be visiting the States and wants to meet her, and she cannot wait to see her old friend once again. As she takes him around New York, one cannot help but notice the longing on Hae Sung’s face. Arthur a perceptive man notices that Hae Sung is somewhere caught in the “what ifs”, but Nora tells him and the audience who are moved by the emotion and longing on Hae Sung’s face that it is the  “in yeon”, at play. The invisible needle that points you toward your destiny or away from it.

As we see the parallel lives of the two characters unfold, Celine Song gives us a quiet yet restrained narrative. There is no angst of a love triangle, a passionate affair, or sexual tensions between the characters. It is just an exploration of the many emotions of “what ifs”, the should have and could have’s humans find themselves in.

Neither Arthur is shown as a racist, condescending man, rather he too like the audience is the faceless viewer wondering where this meeting would lead the two friends.

“What if this is a past life as well, and we are already something else to each other in our next life? Who do you think we are then? asks Hae Sung wistfully to Nora, a question the audience is also left pondering as the credit roll comes up and the lights come on in the dark theatre.

Love to Hate You star, Teo Yoo gives a heart-wrenching performance as Hae Sung, his emotions and actions nuanced and subtle like his character. Greta Lee as Nora is impressive and in control of her character and her choices. 

Past Lives is a slice-of-life narrative, that tugs your heart and leaves you feeling wistful, yet gives you the closure one needs. 


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