REVIEW: Past Lives is the best movie of 2023 so far
Past Lives arrives in cinemas this week.
Every so often, as is the case with Past Lives, a movie comes out of nowhere and just completely knocks you sideways with its profound relatability. The last time we got something like this was at the start of 2022, when The Worst Person In The World arrived in cinemas and broke our collective hearts with its story of a person unsure about their place on this planet.
Past Lives does something similar, but by digging as deep as emotionally possible on the idea that "It is better to have loved and lost...", and bringing us on a uniquely gorgeous, sumptuously told story of two people who clearly love each other, are arguably perfect for each other, but finding themselves in a world that seems to have different plans for them.
Spanning across several decades, the movie begins with an unseen couple watching Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Nora (Greta Lee), and Arthur (John Magaro) in a bar, trying to guess their relationships and dynamics. We're then brought back 24 years earlier, to Hae Sung and Nora as children in Seoul, before her family moved her to Toronto and the duo embark on what begins as a long distance friendship.
From that point on, they - and we - are locked into a future that they can't be sure of and could never predict, with the movie stopping in at 12 year intervals in between to catch us up on Hae Sung and Nora, where they are in the world and where they are with each other.
Writer/director Celine Song handles their delicate love story with the required tentative touch, never breaking the reality of their specific relationship, while maintaining a staggering sense of relatability for anyone and everyone who has ever given a second thought to an important ex.
Matched to some achingly pretty cinematography by Shabier Kirchner and the sensitive score work by Christopher Bear, there is no way to over-compliment the central performances by Teo Yoo and Greta Lee, both walking an emotional high-wire of being respectful of their complicated current circumstances, caught up in the maelstrom of their history, and fantasising about what their future might be.
Never once putting a foot wrong, the biggest issue with Past Lives is that it immediately makes you begin to wonder about your own personal history with potential loved ones. Things might be different if only this had happened, things might have been better if only that happened... But fight those urges, as you won't want to miss a second of this modern masterpiece.
Past Lives arrives in cinemas in Ireland and the UK on Friday 8 September.
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