Past Lives

Director Celine Song / 2023 / USA,South Korea

What if the lover who never was is ‘the one’? This swooning romance follows a Korean woman whose heart is torn by the road not taken.

The Korean concept of ‘inyeon’ holds multitudes, suggesting that two souls colliding is a twist of joyous fate, perhaps predestined, but is one that can also leave a heart bound in inescapable doubt when their paths diverge. That’s the case for Seoul-born Na-young (Greta Lee, Russian Doll). Even after almost a quarter of a century – by now married to a kindly husband (John Magaro, Call Jane, MIFF 2022; First Cow, MIFF 2020), living in New York and going by the name “Nora” – she can’t seem to quite move on from the memory of her childhood friend Hae-sung (Teo Yoo, Decision to Leave, MIFF 2022).

Screening in competition at the Berlinale and championed by indie powerhouse A24, this astounding triptych told in 12-year leaps has rightfully drawn comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. Bringing an exquisite, disarmingly subtle approach to the provocation, “Can you ever go back, and at what cost to happiness in the present?”, the film’s emotionally unmooring heft is all the more impressive given it’s the feature debut of Korean-Canadian playwright-turned-filmmaker Celine Song. This is the deft dance of Past Lives: a wistful ode to the lingering ghosts of what might have been.

“One of the year’s best films … An exquisite story of the doors we never opened and the lives we didn’t live.” – Vox

Director Celine Song will be in attendance for the screenings on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 August. She will also appear in the MIFF Talks event In Conversation: Celine Song’s Past Lives.

Please note: The Sunday 13 August session can be booked as a Food & Film experience. Find out more here.

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