This autobiographical romance drama by New York City playwright Celine Song, in her screenwriting and directorial debut, is about childhood sweethearts separated by distance who reunite 24 years later.
Nora (Seung Ah Moon), then known as Na Young, and Hae Sung (Seung Min Yim) are two South Korean schoolchildren who are best friends and mutual crushes.
Their budding romance is cut short, however, when Na Young immigrates with her family at age 12 to Toronto.
Twelve years later, Nora (now played by Greta Lee) is an aspiring playwright in New York City.
She stumbles on an old Facebook post by Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). They connect and start Skype conversations, which increase in frequency and then die off.
It will be 12 years again before they reconnect, this time in person.
By now, playwright Nora is married to an American writer, Arthur (John Magaro).
Hae Sung has booked a trip to New York and asks Nora if she will see him and show him the sights.
Nora discusses this with Arthur, who confesses qualms but supports her seeing Hae Sung.
During Hae Sung’s visit, the two see the sights, take a subway, ride a ferry.
They also ponder what might have happened between them if she had stayed in Seoul.
Running through the film is a Korean concept called In-Yun, which says that the lives we live and the connections we make — even minute connections such as brushing up against someone on the street — reverberate through life’s layers until they coalesce for people to find each other.
“It’s difficult to convey the multilayered beauty of ‘Past Lives’ beyond just urging people to see it and lose themselves in its transfixing spell.” — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter.
“Achingly autobiographical and disarmingly universal.” — Peter Debruge, Variety.