Celine Song’s directorial debut was already my favorite movie of 2023 so far, but the Past Lives Blu-ray made me appreciate it even more. Featuring an informative commentary track, a great making-of featurette, and a handful of deleted scenes, the home video release is worth every penny. The film itself is even more impactful upon rewatch, with it being a thought-provoking and wonderful exploration of love, fate, and the “what ifs” that fill our lives.
“Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, are wrested apart after Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea,” reads the synopsis. “Two decades later, they are reunited in New York for one fateful week as they confront notions of destiny, love, and the choices that make a life, in this heartrending modern romance.”
Past Lives is anchored by an incredible performance by Greta Lee, who has a natural chemistry with co-star Teo Yoo and delivers one of the best scenes of the year during the film’s penultimate scene. Lee’s performance is particularly effective during the little moments that show that Nora is happy and comfortable in her current life, but who could possibly not flirt with the allure of what could have been? Beautiful New York City scenery coupled with raw emotion is a winning combination that really shines through.
The movie’s title is a reference to “in-yun,” a South Korean word referencing the shared fate that impacts our relationships with others. It’s an idea that we meet the same people in each life, interacting with them in different manners. A lover might just be a stranger that you barely notice in another lifetime. “If two people get married, they say it’s because there have been 8,000 layers of in-yun, over 8,000 lifetimes,” Nora explains during the film. It’s an endlessly fascinating subject and one that encaptures a bond that is hampered by both Nora and Hae Sung being at different places in their lives despite their shared connection.
There are plenty of special features that are worth checking out here. “Bound by Fate,” a 17-minute featurette that shows some great behind-the-scenes footage alongside Song and the stars discussing the film, is nicely edited and an intriguing watch. It also reveals the real-life inspiration for the movie, which Song explains and is really sweet. The five deleted scenes range from OK to interesting ( a subway sequence is the most intriguing of them), although the film really didn’t lose anything by not including them.
However, the big value add is the commentary track that features Song, Lee, and Yoo discussing the film, sharing great stories from production (Yoo has a group chat with the actors that play his Korean drinking friends), and exploring its themes. Particular highlights are the stories of filming scenes in South Korea from Song and Yoo, who explain some of the differences between how American and South Korean films are filmed, and the behind-the-scene details on how the Skype calls with internet issues were shot. These are exactly the types of details that inform viewers, helping them gain context and further appreciation for all aspects of the film. I can’t recommend it enough.
Past Lives Blu-ray Review: The Final Verdict
While the film is truly special and is worth owning on its own merit, it’s the bonus features that make the Past Lives Blu-ray as easy a recommendation as possible. Song has delivered one of 2023’s best movies and one that you will want to keep revisiting over time.
Disclosure: The publisher provided a copy for our Past Lives Blu-ray review.