Man and woman at a carnival

Teo Yoo and Greta Lee in 'Past Lives.' A24/ TWENTY YEARS RIGHTS

"Past Lives" is a masterpiece about deep, genuine human emotion. In her directorial debut, Celine Song demonstrates a self-assured confidence and delivers immense emotional impact through a film that explores the rich, layered connections between characters and their past and present experiences.

It delves into the deep concept of 'In Yun,' a Korean term, suggesting that anyone we interact with in this life is someone we've connected with in a past life.

Twelve years after Nora (Greta Lee) and her family immigrated to North America from South Korea, she rekindles an old connection with her childhood best friend, Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). The duo picks up right where they left off, and their connection remains as strong as their childhood bond.

Despite their lives taking different paths, another 12 years pass, and a vacation reunites them, leading to introspective contemplations about love and fate. Their story, set against our modern, technology-driven world, is infused with elements of romance and melancholy, exploring the notion of past lives and multiple soulmates.

The performances in the film are exceptional. Lee's ability to convey a range of emotions is captivating. She breathes life into scenes through her expressive facial cues and starry eyes, complemented by masterful dialogue interpretation.

Teo Yoo's performance is pure and sincere, filled with longing. Interestingly, despite Nora's artistic freedom, she is more practical. While Hae Sung, who sees himself as an ordinary Korean man, ends up making the boldest romantic move in the film –– travels to New York to see if there’s a romantic spark with Nora.

John Magaro, who portrays a character caught between them, delivers a nuanced interpretation that rings authentically. Magaro's mature and heart-wrenching portrayal dramatically contributes to the film's allure.

Song employs editing techniques, incorporating quick transitions and glimpses of flashbacks, to infuse the narrative with layers of meaning and emotional depth. Her treatment of time is fluid, allowing the past and present to intertwine and reveal connections and understanding between the characters.

The film's strength also lies in its authentic portrayal of human emotions and the unpredictability of life. The characters navigate a complex web of relationships and choices influenced by their unique circumstances.

There are no villains here, only complex individuals attempting to make sense of their pasts, presents, and futures. The film's power and beauty reside in its genuineness; every moment feels real.

Patience is required while watching as the narrative unfolds gracefully through long, uninterrupted shots that linger on characters and cityscapes. The payoff truly comes in the final minutes, with an ending that is executed expertly, creating a moment filled with suspense and intimacy. This brings the film's 'will they, won't they' narrative to a conclusion.

"Past Lives" is a captivating exploration of human connection, the concept of soulmates, and the unpredictability of life. The basic plot transcends into a multi-layered narrative of love lost, pursued closure, and discovered purpose.

I credit Celine Song's precise grasp of when silence can speak volumes. Song's debut is a reflective, introspective, and emotionally profound work of art. Life is not a destination but a sequence of choices that ultimately shape our identity.