May 22, 2023

CINEMA | Greta Lee Revisits Her 'Past Lives' x SIFF 2023

"You make my world so much bigger and I'm wondering if I do the same for you."
Greta Lee Teo Yoo Celine Song | Past Lives A24
Seattle International Film Festival
Past Lives, Korean-Canadian playwright turned filmmaker Celine Song's transcendent semi-autobiographical debut feature inspired by her own experiences immigrating from Seoul to Toronto before settling in New York City, stars Greta Lee and Teo Yoo as childhood sweethearts, Na Young (Nora) and Hae Sung, who reunite as adults and contemplate their diverging directions in life and love. It's a stunning film about possibilities and reconciling your choices.

Song resists sentimentality or explicit melodrama as the romantic film teases a love triangle at first with a soulful John Magaro co-starring as Nora's extremely decent Caucasian husband Arthur. Instead, Past Lives explores the emotional complexities of distance between young adults bonded by their shared childhoods and outsider experiences.

Told across three separate time periods each twelve years apart, Lee's sumptuous performance of quiet glances, casual dialogue, and an effortless cool of confidence anchors the beautifully rendered story anchored in repressed East Asian cultural complexities. It's a star-making dramatic turn for the comic actor mostly known for scene-stealing supporting roles in comedies.

Greta Lee Teo Yoo Celine Song | Past Lives A24
A24 / Elevation Pictures
Lee and Yoo's natural ease and chemistry grounds the wistful film of diasporic memories. How their long-distance friendship grows and fizzles before their reunion builds a sense of melancholic tension sublimely.

Song's remarkable film is so thoughtfully measured in its approach to unfolding the internal drama of our Korean characters and their past histories of deep yearning and longing. Past Lives intimately unfolds with such a wondrous immediacy and insight into young immigrant experiences through its understated yet devastating choices.

Past Lives screened as the opening night film of the 2023 Seattle International Film Festival. It also screens through VAFF at Fifth Avenue Cinemas on June 7th.

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