Earlier in the year the SF Film festival screened Past Lives at the Castro. This film, written and directed by South Korean-Canadian playwright and filmmaker Celine Song, traces the reconnection of two childhood friends. The story unfolds in three acts, each set in a new country, with each act separated by a twelve-year interval. Act I depicts the characters at age 12, Act II at 24, and Act III at 36. This structural device allows the movie to explore the main characters’ lives and their evolving relationship, painting a poetic portrait that explores themes of love, loss, and regret.
Opening with a prologue in New York City, Nora, now using her Korean name Na Young, is depicted as an aspiring playwright in a relationship with Arthur, an American. While browsing through her old classmates online, she stumbles upon her childhood friend Hae Sung’s profile, leading them to reconnect online and eventually plan a meeting in New York.
The story jumps back twenty four years, to Seoul, South Korea, where Na Young and Hae Sung appear to be more than friends. Their relationship is abruptly severed when Na Young’s family moves to Canada.
Fast forward twelve years, Hae Sung has completed his South Korean military service, and Na Young has moved to New York City. Their reunion ignites old emotions, despite their existing relationships, forcing them to choose between their current partners or the love they once shared.
“Past Lives” is a remarkable film, with a touching narrative. It explores first love, friendship, the struggle to release the past, and the ongoing desire to comprehend life’s meaning. Excellently acted, written, directed and shot, “Past Lives” is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.