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Past Lives

Directed by Celine Song
106 minutes
Unclassified 15+
In this delicate, spellbinding romance, two school friends explore a lingering, deep connection that appears to transcend time and distance. Sundance and Berlinale 2023.
Na Young and Hae Sung are friends but also academic rivals in their Korean school. A budding childhood romance is prematurely ended when Na Young emigrates with her family to Canada, adopting the name Nora for her new life. Twelve years later, Nora (Greta Lee) is a student in New York working on becoming a writer, while Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) is doing military service in Korea. An intriguing social media query leads to an online reunion for the two. Catching up on a video call leads to further appointments, and love is once again on the cards. Flashing forward a further 12 years sees Hae Sung and Nora finally reunited in New York, when Hae Sung decides to visit the city for a week. By now Nora is happily married to Arthur (John Magaro), but this decades-later reunion raises the inevitable question of destiny and what might have been. Past Lives beautifully reflects on the Korean concept of In-Yun – the idea that interactions in past lives can lead to meaningful or intended connections in the present. Past Lives is a film of great ambition, and deep emotion, and in its intimate tale of two people, it also captures something profound and universal in us all.

Celine Song’s play Endlings received its world premiere at American Repertory Theater (2019). She has been a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and also wrote the first season of Amazon’s Wheel of Time. Past Lives is her feature film debut and appeared at both Sundance and the Berlinale earlier this year.
The film has such a breadth of understanding and sensitivity that if you were to ask me what I like most about it, I could only say ‘everything’: allusion, symbolism, clothing, simple things like fragments of noir iconography or a red light shimmering in a puddle – all are handled so deftly you never want the spell to break.
Nick James, Sight and Sound
Celine Song’s beautiful romance immediately draws comparisons to Linklater’s Before trilogy… Anyone who falls under the spell of this devastating film will feel altered from the experience.
Tim Grierson, Screen International
Will have art-house audiences swooning.
Peter Debruge, Variety


Fri 9 Jun
State Theatre
Assisted Listening
Past Event Cancel
Sat 10 Jun
State Theatre
Assisted Listening
Past Event Cancel
Fri 16 Jun
Ritz Randwick - Cinema 1
Assisted Listening
Past Event Cancel
Program Strand
Official Competition
Unclassified 15+
In English and Korean with English subtitles
Celine Song
David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler
Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro
Celine Song
Shabier Kirchner
Keith Fraase
Australian Premiere
Women Directors, Asia
Company Credits
Australian Distributor: StudioCanal
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