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What to Watch This Weekend – Past Lives

Past Lives is the story of Na Young (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). As pre-teens growing up in Seoul, the two friends develop a mutual attraction stemming from a playful school rivalry. Just as they begin to express their emotions, Na Young and her family move to North America. As the years pass, the two lose track of each other across time and distance. However, some time later, Hae Sung and Na Young reconnect. As the two get reacquainted, they must face some difficult realities about who they are, the decisions they’ve made, and their path forward.  

What works in Past Lives is the rich, honest portrayal of love and navigating relationships. Writer/director Celine Song (The Wheel of Time) crafts an incredible journey with her two leads that feels deep, heartfelt, and messy. Na Young and Hae Sung feel like real people facing real dilemmas. And Song consistently resists the urge to overdramatize, keeping all of the developments between the two grounded. Furthermore, Song demonstrates an incredible knack for tension. In the best possible way, audiences will become invested in the trajectory of these two people which keeps Past Lives highly engaging until the very scene. Finally, the cinematography and framing by Shabier Kirchner (Bull, Small Axe) is top notch particularly as they use forced perspective as a means to subvert expectations, and wide sweeping angles to convey grandeur.

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Individuals not in the mood for a romantic drama may not enjoy Past Lives as much as others. At the heart of the story are two individuals somewhat awkwardly trying to figure the other person out. This leads to rather uncomfortable encounters that are meant to reflect the characters’ inner emotional turmoil. The resulting experience as such can be rather heavy. Finally, audiences should know that the majority of the language spoken is in Korean, a component and facet that is integral to the story.

Past Lives is a stunning piece of work. Thanks to amazing on-screen work and chemistry with Lee and Yoo, combined with outstanding execution by Song, Past Lives is a special look at the connections we make, and the paths we forge. Highly recommended.

Recommended if you Enjoyed: Before Sunset, Drive My Car

Past Lives is now available for rent on most digital streaming platforms.

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