THAT Past Lives is thought-provoking is probably best summed up by the hours it took me to come to terms with its ending.
Being a romantic at heart I always want the happy ending, so it was a jolt when Past Lives took another direction. It took some deep thinking before deciding director Celine Song had got it right.
But let’s start at the beginning as the movie explores the complexity of love and the paths that lives can take.
Na Young (Greta Lee) is a high-achiever who forges a friendship with equally brainy classmate Hae Sung (Teo Yoo).
The two are abruptly separated as Na Young’s parents decide to emigrate from South Korea to America, prompting her to change her name to the more English Nora.
The movie weaves through to 12 years later where the pair reconnect again in New York.
Nora’s life has moved on and she’s now married to Arthur and settled into New York life and work.
Meanwhile Hae Sung has stayed in Seoul studying and hanging out with his friends; but hankering for Nora.
Song’s deft touch in capturing the characters’ nuances takes us through the ‘what ifs’ as she explores the different paths taken and the passage of time that has transformed both their lives.
The scenes of South Korea where the friends’ relationship begins and the streets of New York, where it rekindles, gives the audience a glimpse into the alternate direction their lives could have taken, provoking introspection about the role of choice in shaping destinies.
The question for a romantic like me was: does she go back to Hae Sung, where the lingering emotions of their past is a testament to the enduring power of their first love, or stay with Arthur, where the bittersweet reality of the twists of life have lead her?
by PAULA HOLLAND