Rent Past Lives (2023)

4.0 of 5 from 189 ratings
1h 41min
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Synopsis:
Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), two deeply connected childhood friends, 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.
Actors:
, , , Moon Seung-ah, Leem Seung-min, Ji Hye Yoon, Won Young Choi, Ahn Min-Young, Seo Yeon-Woo, Kiha Chang, Shin Hee-Chul, Jun Hyuk Park, , , Noo Ri Song, Si Ah Jin, Yoon Seo Choi, Seung Un Hwang, ,
Directors:
Producers:
David Hinojosa, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon
Writers:
Celine Song
Studio:
StudioCanal
Genres:
Drama, Romance
Collections:
BAFTA Nominations Competition 2024
BBFC:
Release Date:
04/12/2023
Run Time:
101 minutes
Languages:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Formats:
Pal
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Colour:
Colour
Bonus:
  • Deleted Scenes
  • "Bound by Fate: Exploring Past Lives" Featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Celine Song and Actors Greta Lee and Teo Yoo
BBFC:
Release Date:
04/12/2023
Run Time:
106 minutes
Languages:
English Audio Description, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles:
English Hard of Hearing
Formats:
Pal
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Colour:
Colour
BLU-RAY Regions:
B
Bonus:
  • Deleted Scenes
  • "Bound by Fate: Exploring Past Lives" Featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Celine Song and Actors Greta Lee and Teo Yoo

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Reviews (2) of Past Lives

Underwhelming - Past Lives review by JR

Spoiler Alert
05/01/2024

We never really know Nora, the protagonist, because we have to just accept, without evidence, her brilliance (aspiring to win a Tony), and because of her rather opaque, underdeveloped characterisation. Her callous treatment of the adoring Hae Sung, first neglecting to say goodbye to him aged 12, and again in her 20's abruptly ending a series of intense late night video calls filled with longing (on his part), makes her a rather unsympathetic character. There were slight echoes of Nora (is the name a coincidence?) Ephron's 'You've got Mail' and 'Sleepless in Seattle' but without the fizz and verve. The film is long and slow and offers little that's new in the 'What if/Unrequited love' romantic genre. The music is good and some of the cinematography is interesting.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Thoughtful, bittersweet drama - Past Lives review by PD

Spoiler Alert
08/12/2023

Whether minor or major, the millions of decisions we make form the winding path of our lives, and specific reasons for taking certain forks in the road can often be lost to the sea of time. A not-quite-romance in three parts crossing nearly a quarter-century, playwright Celine Song’s directorial debut examines such universal experience with keen cultural specificity, telling the story of childhood friends who twice reconnect later in life. It’s a warm, patient film culminating in a quietly powerful, reflective finale.

It begins in Seoul, introducing Na Young and Hae Sung as primary school classmates forming a playful bond before the former’s family move to Canada. With no contact for 12 years, we then jump in time after Hae Sung finishes his mandatory military service and, per Korean tradition, moves back with his family as he begins engineering school. Na Young, now 'Nora' (Greta Lee - very good indeed), has meanwhile embarked to NYC to launch her career as an author in the midst of an MFA program. They reconnect thanks to the halcyon days of digital-chat Facebook, and so begins a flirtatious, long-distance relationship, although this section rather lacks emotional weight, being underwritten and simplified as if Song can’t wait to jump to the final, longest, and most rewarding section of her film.

This third part presents an opportunity for the childhood sweethearts to reconnect physically for the first time in 24 years. As the weight of what could have been hangs over, a wistful and bittersweet reunion commences, Song beautifully conveying the vast passage of time and how much the circumstances of our lives can change while we still carry the same yearning souls, their interaction fond yet distant as we witness two people now shaped by entirely different circumstances in their most formative years. This dichotomy is wonderfully realised by Song in both their cultural differences and ways their long, furtive glances say more than words ever could, as if every stare makes up for years of being apart. We're left with the question of whether Nora does actually have a connection with Hae Sung, someone she now barely knows, or whether is he just representative of life she never got to experience, the symbolic ghost of a country left behind.

Song delicately juggles such questions of identity and longing in a powerful moment at the film’s conclusion as our lead considers if the life she leads is 'meant to be'. While taking its title from the Korean belief of In Yun––wherein the connections people make in this life are actually the culmination of thousands of others from past lives––it’s joked at one point that this profound idea is often used as a seduction tactic for courting. That gentle sense of wit, mixing the philosophical and the personal, sums up the film's power. Rather than instilling anxiety in contemplating another path one could’ve taken, Song provides comfort by suggesting everyone’s journey is uniquely their own. Thoughtful work.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Critic review

Past Lives review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso

No matter how your life turns out, there comes a point when you reach your early forties and start looking back. You think about the people you used to know and the life you used to live. As you trace the projection to your current point in time, a thought crosses your mind: What if I had taken this route instead? What if I pursued that girl I had a crush on? What if I took this job instead of that one? What if I hadn’t moved away? These thoughts plague the characters of the earnest drama Past Lives.

The film gives the audience a glimpse at the lives of Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae (Teo Yoo). They grew up together in South Korea and formed a bond that seemed to ensure they’d end up together. Unfortunately, Nora and her family moved to Canada when she was young. The two of them went their separate ways as Hae became an engineer in Korea while Nora became a writer in America. They reconnect 12 years later over the internet, but they decide to put their reconnection on hold again, considering how strange Nora views that Hae sought her out after so many years.

Another 12 years pass and Nora marries Arthur (John Magaro). Still hung up on Nora, Hae decides to travel to New York City to reconnect with the girl he knew many years ago. Their meetings are touching yet awkward, and they speak more about South Korean culture than their lives. But as they spend more time together, they start revealing more about themselves. Even after having spent so long separated, there’s a thin bond between them that they want to preserve to some degree somberly. It’s an aspect of Nora’s past she hasn’t quite gotten over and one that Arthur feels he has to let her realize to a certain terminus.

This is such a tender film in that it presents a bittersweet relationship that didn’t unfold like these two characters had hoped. There are quiet moments of connection as Nora and Hae slowly warm up to each other as they make small talk in Korean as they stroll around New York. In a lesser film, this might’ve been the moment when Nora dumps Arthur and runs off to be with Hae, her true love. But that’s not how the world works when you’ve spent so many years away from the people you once knew. It’s not like Nora can just step back into being the swooning girl who depended on Hae, despite whatever feelings Hae may still hold onto for her after his recent breakup with a girlfriend.

The ultimate gut punch of truth comes when Nora admits that she’s not the same girl and that Hae isn’t the same boy. Both of them grew up and went their separate paths. Had they both stayed in South Korea, they might’ve been married. But that didn’t happen and it won’t happen given how different they’ve become since then. It’s a truth that adults can recognize, but one that still hurts. Even when Nora states this with an almost content and sage view, she still ends up crying in the arms of Arthur soon after, punctured by the very essence of the pesky what-if questions that cloud our minds. There’s also a certain somberness in how Arthur, despite being a good husband, fears that he’ll never fully be a part of Nora’s world, as though her background with someone like Hae remains under strict lock and key. Nora assures him it’s not a problem, but the truth is that it’s a locked-away version of Nora that he’ll never know and she’ll never become again.

Past Lives is refreshingly honest about the nature of growing older, pursuing relationships, and letting go of the ones that would never progress past a crush. The mixture of sadness and serenity in a film like this can’t be overstated for how amazingly it touches on a crucial part of the human experience. Being close to the age of both the actors, there’s a painful relatability to it all, but also contentment with the progression of time, letting the tears flow as they may, but being grateful that you get to spend this life with someone wonderful, even if it was only for one chapter with a brief encounter years later. Films like this are a wondrous depiction of how fragile we can become, even if we’ve talked ourselves into being okay with the people we’ll never have the same relationships with again.

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