Stereoactive Presents: ‘Past Lives’ // a movie discussion

Celine Song's debut feature is the story of a romantic triangle that spans decades and continents.

Stereoactive Presents: ‘Past Lives’ // a movie discussion
Greta Lee, John Magaro, and Teo Yoo in 'Past Lives'
Available on Goodpods, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

J. McVay and Charles Hinshaw discuss the debut film written and directed by Celine Song. Past Lives stars Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro as the three sides of a romantic triangle that spans decades and continents.

There are thin and thick lines running through every life. These may run through personal situations or society as a whole. Celine Song’s Past Lives explores the intersection of at least a few such lines. There’s the sometimes thin line between the platonic and the romantic, then there are the often thicker lines between times and places that separate moments by decades and people by continents and oceans.

Greta Lee stars as Nora, an immigrant from South Korea to New York City by way of Toronto, who reconnects with an old friend from her youth named Hae Sung – played by Teo Yoo – who was coincidentally already trying to reconnect with her. Their early 2010s Skype calls seem to be drifting toward the romantic side of the aforementioned thin line before they’re paused for a reassessment that never comes and they both continue their lives outside of the bubble they’d constructed for themselves. Eventually, they meet up in person again, but Nora is now married to Arthur, played by John Magaro. 

A tension amongst all three ensues that raises questions about the nature of the trio’s internal interpersonal relationships, as well as their identities and how they’ve become the people they are.

The strength of Past Lives comes from the way it deftly flirts with ideas such as fate, culture, ethnicity, and especially through its brief but essential opening scene, projection of self. Each idea or subject is teased in such a way that it naturally unravels in front of your eyes without ever seeming contrived – or, really, to even announce itself. Consequently, you’re already thinking about each idea before you realize you are, just as happens so often in life. The final result is a sublimely crafted story that only improves with subsequent viewings.

Episode Credits:

  • Producer/Host: J. McVay
  • Guests: Charles Hinshaw
  • Music: Hansdale Hsu
  • Produced by Stereoactive Media

For more information on this podcast, including where it's available, please visit the show's homepage.