The film “Past Lives” opens at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, July 14. Directed by Korean-American Celine Song in her film debut, this poignant romantic tale of a lost childhood love stars Greta Lee as Nora and Teo Yoo as Hae Sung.
The film begins with the three, which include Nora’s husband Arthur (John Magara), at a New York bar. In a flashback, Seung Ah Moon, Nora’s name as a child, and a young Seung Min Yim are devoted 12-year-olds in Korea, until Seung Ah Moon leaves with her family for a life in Toronto.
The couple reconnect 12 years later through Nora’s mother, and talk on Skype. But Nora, who has changed her name, is about to leave for a writer’s retreat in Montauk. Hae Sung, as a grown-up Seung Min Yim is called, has finished his military service, and is moving to China on an exchange program, so their contact ends.
Nora meets the American Arthur at her writer’s retreat, and they strike up a friendship that eventually turns into love and marriage, which Nora describes as fate, or “inyeon.” Arthur asks Nora if she believes in inyeon, but she discounts it as an obsolete Korean belief now that she has become American.
Another 12 years pass, and find Nora and Arthur married and living in New York. Hae Sung arrives in the city, apparently on vacation but actually to see Nora. Although she knows the truth, Nora insists she is committed to Arthur. The three go out to dinner together, and end up in the same bar where they had been at the beginning of the film. At first, Nora translates Hae Sung’s Korean for Arthur, until Nora and Hae Sung end up speaking Korean exclusively to each other. Eventually Hae Sung brings up inyeon, and asks Nora if she remembers the devotion they had for each other as children. He wonders what would have happened if Nora hadn’t left Korea. When Nora leaves for the restroom, Hae Sung apologizes to Arthur for relying on Korean and promises that they won’t speak again when alone.
The three return to Nora and Arthur’s apartment. After Hae Sung invites them to visit him in Korea, he calls for an Uber and prepares to leave. Nora walks with him, and he suggests maybe they are experiencing a past life. He asks Nora what their relationship might be in their next life. In this way, their childhood affection is left in the air.
“Past Lives” frames the story as one of the immigrant experience, as well as about two who have lost their childhood love.
Information and tickets for “Past Lives” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.