Past Lives (12A)
Venue: The Corn Hall
Director: Celine Song
With: Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro
A heartrending modern romance. Close childhood friends, Nora and Hae are separated when Nora's family emigrates to the US. Two decades later they are reunited for one fateful week. Nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at this year's Academy Awards, announced in March.
Here's a very positive review from David Vass:
Celine Song’s astonishingly assured directorial debut seems all the more poignant when you learn it is loosely autobiographical. Much like Greta Lee’s Nora, she lives in New York, having migrated from Korea twenty years previously. Nora, however, she left behind her childhood sweetheart at perhaps the last time in history you could lose touch simply through failing to make an effort.
Ten years later, and the boy has grown into a man played by Teo Yoo, who takes advantage of the technology that has developed in the meantime to track down Past Lives. Never has a Skype call been more riveting as when the two of them drift into easy conversation that surely, we imagine, foreshadows romance. When Nora unexpectedly shuts down their rekindled friendship it’s as big a blow to the audience as it is to the obviously besotted Sung, and an early indication that Celine Song has no intention of making this an easy or predictable ride. It is inevitable that they will meet again, but be wary of assuming the meeting with offer up the cathartic consummation we’ve come to expect from just about every romantic movie ever seen. Song’s script is far too clever for that, and far too grounded in reality.
Nora is married for a start, to nice guy Arthur, underplayed superbly by John Magaro. There’s a tiny scene in the movie where Magaro lays out exactly what we expect to happen – no doubt what we’d like to happen – but also how facile a conclusion that would be. Instead, we get a nuanced three-hander that explores the exquisite awkwardness of a platonic love triangle between people too straightforwardly decent and civilised to upset the apple cart.
This is a grown up movie that fearlessly tackles the thorny question of what might have been, not least whether it’s a good idea to even ask the question.