Rusthall Community Cinema led the way, with Past Lives scheduled on the exact day that The Guardian chose it as their film of the year. Three cheers for us! Attendance would arguably have been higher at another time of year, however fourteen of us were moved to come to the discussion about this touching film.
We gave a collective thumbs up to this subtle romantic Korean film with its themes of love, fate and the immigrant experience, director Celine Song’s debut. There was so much that pleased us. We appreciated the naturalistic dialogue, with its extended pauses and sense of longing when Nora and Hae Sung meet. It was a delight to see a film that was underplayed and didn’t “knock you over the head.” It was “involving and beguiling.”
The film revolved around the theme of ‘inyun’ – fate – and explored the belief that the relationship between two people in this life are owed to interactions in their past lives. We loved the poignant scene when the schoolchildren Nora and Hae Sung see each other before her family leave for Canada, he goes down the hill and she ascends the steps to her home.
We had differing views about whether Nora’s marriage was truly in jeopardy when she meets Hae Sung again. One member of our group, as a passing shot before he left, felt that she loved her career the most. It’s a good point. She did marry her husband Arthur to get a Green Card. Some of us felt Nora and Hae Sung’s relationship connected with the immigrant experience – he symbolised what she had lost by leaving her home country.
The last scene, while Hae Sung waits for his Uber to return to Korea, probably never to see Nora again, touched us all. We see them standing awkwardly and silently on separate paving stones, divided, yet connected.
As we said goodbye before Christmas, a member of the group shared that RCC gave her the wonderful opportunity to experience films she may never have considered before. That’s a great thought to end 2023. Thanks to our discussion leader, Gordon, for all the hard work he puts in.