It feels somewhat restrictive to call PAST LIVES a romance; this film will go down as a vivid, emotionally rich exploration of human relationships. The movie follows Na Young (Greta Lee) over a two-decades-long journey from a 12-year-old kid in Seoul to a 36-year-old writer in New York City, now going by Nora Moon.
Her relationship with Hae Sung punctuates Nora’s life, her close childhood friend and crush before she and her family emigrated to Canada. What makes the film great are its complex characters. The writer and director, Celine Song, has skillfully incorporated motivations, emotions, and personalities into the characters of PAST LIVES, avoiding simplistic and one-dimensional characterizations. This leaves us not really rooting for anyone, or any given situation, instead allowing us to grasp the quiet intensity of Nora’s situation.
PAST LIVES is an incredibly well-made, thought-provoking film that’ll leave you with a lump in your throat and a melancholy mood for the rest of your day. You won’t just be considering questions of love and soulmates but immigration itself and its often-overlooked impacts on identity. PAST LIVES is currently playing in theaters.