We’re heading into the summer movie season, and it’s rare that this time of year offers up new treats for people who like sitting down with a touching, deliberately paced romantic drama that promises to leave them feeling some deep emotions about the themes of love and fate. However, that’s exactly what moviegoers can expect this year, when Celine Song’s new A24 film, PAST LIVES, comes to an AMC Theatre near you in early June.
The movie, which has been recognized as an AMC Artisan Film, follows Nora (Greta Lee) as she reconnects with her childhood friend/sweetheart, Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), decades after she and her family emigrated from South Korea, and she and Hae Sung lost touch. This story, which showcases South Korean characters and additionally explores ideas about soul mates and whether two people who once seemed destined for each other can (or even should) consider trying to recapture their old magic, as well as what happens when those feelings that seemed so far away come roaring back at the worst time, is deeply personal to the writer/director. So, let’s take a look at what makes PAST LIVES such a special film.
A Moving Film About Star-Crossed Lovers
At the center of the narrative of PAST LIVES is the tale of two star-crossed lovers, the aforementioned Nora and Hae Sung. In childhood, the two were nearly inseparable, but it’s not long before Nora’s family leaves South Korea behind to pursue their opportunities in Canada. This puts an ocean between the young sweethearts that makes them drift apart, but doesn’t completely dampen their affection for one another.
It’s not until they’re in their mid-20s, and the ambitious and headstrong Nora is living in New York City and studying to become a writer, that they again find one another and reconnect on a whim. But, as they find their friendship once again growing into an even stronger bond, they also see how the pressure of maintaining a long distance relationship is already getting in the way. With that, they decide to part ways and live life separately, but after several more years go by, they find themselves drawn back together.
When Nora and Hae Sung meet again, though, she’s married to an American, Arthur (John Magaro), and both of the former friends face heartbreak as they rekindle the connection they once had, and know that they can never fully act on it now.
Emerging Voice: Director, Celine Song
Many audience members who head out to see PAST LIVES will not be familiar with the work of writer/director Celine Song, as this is her feature-length film debut. The filmmaker is mostly known for her work as a playwright, but also spent time as a staff writer for the hit Amazon Prime fantasy series, “The Wheel of Time,” during its first season.
Her film is very personal, as the major beats of the story come from Song’s own life as someone who also left a childhood sweetheart behind when her family emigrated to Canada from South Korea. She also landed in New York to become a writer and eventually married an American. When speaking to Variety about the movie, she opened up about why using her own life for the story didn’t trouble her, and said:
“Sure, there is a question of whether it is going to reach your audience. But it’s always an act of faith; I believe that as long as you’re absolutely honest with your experience, and try to describe it as accurately and clearly as possible, it is going to connect with people.”
PAST LIVES screened at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival in early 2023, and the extremely positive reviews suggest that Song was absolutely correct in her choice.
Starring Greta Lee And Teo Yoo
Audiences are likely to want to see more of both leads after they watch the new romantic drama, as stars Greta Lee and Teo Yoo are each wonderful in their roles, and have great chemistry that helps you see how their characters could resume their relationship so easily, while also immersing viewers in the story and making you hope that things will work out for them.
Both stars have been in the industry for many years. And if you’d like to see more of Lee, she, in particular, has had numerous starring, recurring and guest-starring roles on popular shows since making her on-camera debut in 2006. These appearances include parts in series such as “Girls,” “New Girl,” “Wayward Pines,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “The Morning Show” and “Russian Doll,” while she also showed up in movies like HELLO I MUST BE GOING, SISTERS, MONEY MONSTER and POTTERSVILLE.
Yoo should be recognizable from his work in the Apple TV+ sci-fi series, “Dr. Brain,” along with Netflix’s Korean rom-com series, “Love To Hate You.” He can also be seen in the 2022 Park Chan-wook film, DECISION TO LEAVE which was also recognized as an AMC Artisan Film.
PAST LIVES has lots to offer audiences when it comes to an AMC Theatre near you in early June.