"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?"
Movie Night Extravaganza's Oscar 2023 month continues with Celine Song's Past Lives. A powerful, yet gentle film about time, circumstance, choices and the general challenge of relationships and living. Forrest Miller, Conan Neutron, J. Andrew World, and Kristina Oakes tackle this under the radar Best Picture nominee
In-yun is the belief that the interactions between two people in this life are owed to interactions (or near-interactions) in their past lives. Celine Song has written and directed a fictionalized version of her life here (through a character named Nora Moon). She immigrated from Korea to Toronto at 12, then to New York City to write plays. Even at 36, Nora is in this transitory state, between her Korean and "Western" Identities, and has struggled to put down real roots. She meets Arthur another writer who she marries.
At the same time, she keeps being reconnected with Hae Sung, her childhood Korean Best Friend, who ends up visiting her and a Love Triangle, of sorts, emerges.
Arthur rightly points out that if it was a movie (heh) Arthur would be villain as the impediment for them being together in their timeless love story. Yet still he supports her and the complications continue as the two guys seem to genuinely like each other.
Apparently, this movie came to Celine Song as an idea when this actually happened and at 4 AM between her husband and childhood best friend from Korea she thought this would make an interesting movie. Well, it did. And a first time feature at that.
It's hard enough to immigrate once, I'm sure, but Nora immigrates twice first from South Korea to Toronto then to New York City. She does so because she knows she must leave things behind to have a future. Yet it isn’t as simple as that.
Deeply profound, heavy and moving but without a trace of self importance. There is a groundedness and practicality to it that escapes most art house fare, yet the vibes are electric. Micro expressions and subtle body movements tell entire stories in this film that features multiple languages. A hyper-sophisticated and mature romantic film that doesn’t forget to electrify where it counts. Powerful moments rarely depicted in even modern movies as the trappings of technology are seen as encumbrance, not an opportunity.
The beauty of a moment and knowing that the moment is just what it is.
A carefully constructed and remarkably well acted feature film debut for director Celine Song that hits a little like Charlotte Wells' Aftersun from 2022. In that the message itself is below the surface some. It is impressive that there are no heroes or villains here. Just human feelings. No wonder A24 seems to have a hard time marketing it.
The symbology of "In-Yun" (a spiritual term, usually, for the connection/destiny two people have that transcends one lifetime) also applies to each "new life" she starts in different places.
To move forward, Nora she must make peace with her "Past Lives."
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