There is destiny and then there is inyeon (or yeon). One of those beautiful non-English words that can hardly be translated from the native language. But after watching Past Lives (in theaters June 2), you’ll never forget its meaning. You’ll search for it everywhere and yearn for the deep emotion it describes – the kind you’ll feel watching this heartbreakingly brilliant, beautifully crafted film.
inyeon It is a Korean word and refers to the Buddhist belief in a spiritual, predestined bond between two people. Sitting outside on a beautiful summer’s night in Montauk, 24-year-old Nora (Greta Lee) reveals to her new friend (and husband-to-be) Arthur (John Magaro) that their soul mate didn’t just find each other. Per inyeonSoul mates are two people who have drilled through 8,000 layers of history – lives – to establish the bonds of destiny. They are meant to be together in some way, whether as two people in love or as a tree and its strongest branch.
Nora laughs at the concept as “something Koreans say to seduce each other” Past Lives to take inyeon to the heart. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Celine Song, the film follows two childhood friends whose unspoken love for each other continues to be challenged by distance, time, and that unspeakable idea of love. inyeon.
Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) and Nora, whom she remembers as Na Young, will never be together: It will be theirs, a kind of prologue to the movie clearly shows, but a temporary childhood crush, albeit strong. But when the two reunite as adults elsewhere in the world 12 years later, they reconsider whether their love is ephemeral;
Since their last conversation, Nora has left Toronto and recently moved to New York to pursue an MFA in playwriting; Hae Sung is studying engineering in Seoul. Nora’s random search of her schoolmates from her Korean past on Facebook mediates a reconnection between the two, encouraged by increasingly frequent Skype calls and distracting dreams of what might happen if they were reunited face-to-face.
From this part of the movie Past Lives He starts showing his cards. Song isn’t interested in telling a love story that neatly pushes the protagonists towards each other. Instead, he’s committed to keeping Nora and Hae Sung apart, from the fact that they’re subject to the whims of the internet connection and the 13-hour time difference, to the fact that the movie deliberately keeps them in separate frames throughout. Song truly reveals the distance between Hae Sung and Nora, both physically and romantically, through the framework that separates them; on computer and smartphone windows, they communicate via Skype, looking at a virtual ocean. Even when they finally meet face-to-face for the first time in 24 years, each stands alone in a frame, interrupted for a devastatingly long time, until each gets a chance to hold each other in the same frame.
The apparent infallibility of their potential to be together is so powerful cinematically that it receives body-shaking sobs from a sensitive viewer (my, the sensitive viewer). Song’s script is both vulnerable and implicit, and his direction reveals emotional honesty as well as fantastic lead actors. Yoo in particular stands out; While reckoning with her love for her childhood friend, she conveys Hae Sung’s deep-rooted affection with expertly drawn, vague body language and long pauses.
It is never lost to us that our two leaders encouraged the impossible; They have clear professional figures and dreams that can’t stand their distance. It’s heartbreaking that Nora is on hiatus for another 12 years, but not because we have any hope that the couple will ever be a couple. We know that her late-night conversations with Hae Sung about her hopes, dreams, and desires are painfully doomed, the kind that bring people emotionally close but never physically close. Watching Hae Sung and Nora fall silently in love with each other—or perhaps, for the lure of rekindling something meaningful for their long-vanished childhoods—moves with grace, emptied by impossibility.
much Past Lives She wants to respect Hae Sung and Nora’s emotional bond, without disrespecting her relationship with Arthur – after all, she’s the one who benefits the most from their relationship. inyeon. A love story that doesn’t make a triangle or villain out of the “other man” is a rare thing; Arthur is far from the villain in a story that never happened. His love for Nora is always expressed openly, his desire for intimacy is expressed without self-consciousness in ways that Hae Sung’s love could never be. (In a beautiful sequence, Arthur tells Nora that he wants to learn Korean to understand what he is saying while speaking in his sleep.) Hae Sung notes towards the end of the movie that Nora is “the one who always leaves”, according to him. But to Arthur, Nora is “the one who stays.”
so it is Past Livesis a film whose permanence is undeniable but never compelling. maybe inyeon Here it is – we as viewers have crossed 8,000 layers of our own possible existences, such as grass and dewdrops, stray cats and street rats, or telephone poles and wires, to land on the same plane as Song’s incredible film. While Hae Sung and Nora are finally forced to say goodbye, their separation is not painful but bittersweet; So is this beautiful tense, enlightening, unforgettable film.