Past Lives is a romantic drama that has been hotly discussed as a Best Picture contender. Coming from the same studio as Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, Past Lives couldn’t be more different than last year’s best picture winner. Far from the mainstream, Past Lives is a lower budget film that frequently features subtitles and may not immediately appeal to an average viewer.
But is Past Lives worth a shot? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? Is it liberal propaganda?
Conservative Critic Meter Check: Past Lives
Overall Rating: Moving and fresh
Past Lives does something incredible in that it breaks new ground. In a Hollywood full of stolen ideas, franchises and endless sequels, Past Lives has the audacity to explore a kind of love that hasn’t yet been fully explored. While the film starts out slow, and requires patience, much like love it sneaks up and suddenly envelopes viewers in feelings they never knew they always had. Past Lives dares to ask but never answer: What if?
Without any hint of political propaganda, Past Lives is a pitch perfect small scale character drama for those who are willing to experience a love story that never was.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Requires patience, but worth it
Past Lives starts out pretty slowly and relies heavily on subtitles with primarily korean language. This is difficult for some viewers and does require focus and patience. But somewhere unexpectedly as the film reaches a midpoint the film surprises viewers with a swell of meaning that not many if any films have explored in recent memory. Additionally, Past Lives knows what it is and is able to aptly tell its story in a respectable and truly laudable 103 minute run time recognizing that a story told well doesn’t necessarily need three and half hours to wander around the plot losing viewer interest and story integrity. With some patience in the beginning of the film, viewers will have major emotional payoff.
Does it have intellectual/artistic value?
To begin with, Past Lives, is beautiful. Writer and Director Celine Strong is known for her also very beautiful science fiction on Amazon Prime, Wheel of Time. Past Lives is a departure in a major way and her first motion picture not to mention a triumph. Strong moves her characters from physically restrained spaces into the wide open and in doing so also moves the tenor and scale of the themes from intimate to grand. It’s spectacular as is the story itself.
The performances are all perfect. Greta Lee (The Morning Show) as Nora is the most recognizable actor and carries the vast majority of the content on her shoulders. However, her opposite Teo Yoo who is more of a newcomer to the American screen has one of the most powerful and unique presences of any actor today. Yoo, per his character, Hae Sung, manages in near silence to be at once vulnerable, mature, nurturing, closed off and charming….and that’s just in one glance. John Magaro (The Big Short) as Arthur is also painfully good all while given the impossible task of self awareness in what his character means to the overall story. Sensational is the only way to describe the trios work together.
If a viewer can leave Past Lives without shedding a single tear they might be a psychopath.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: No, slightly pro-America
There isn’t much if any politics in the film at all except that it is very pro immigration and assimilation in the context of America. If there is any lean it is very slightly to the right.
If you have patience and enjoy a character drama or want a romantic night with your partner, see Past Lives.