In Slate’s annual magazine movie club, film critic Dana Stevens emails fellow critics (2023, Bilge Ebiri, Esther Zuckerman, Mark Harris) about the year in film. Sometimes other critics get in the way. Read the first entry here.
Movie club! I have to interrupt again!
We’re almost at the end, but esteemed clubbers have devoted numerous columns to the following nominees of the year: Dungeons & Dragons Few people bother to mention one of the year’s most acclaimed films: a comedy, a holocaust drama with no Jews, and a man raping a grave.Don’t you love the year’s best American indies and the warmest, most clear-eyed romances in recent memory? “One of the best debuts in years at Sundance,” Gotham Awards winner The film, which won the Best Feature Award, was ranked fourth in Indiewire’s critics poll, but Celine Song past life Out of a total of 19 posts, there were only 2 brief mentions. I think I know why, so I’ll explain why you’re wrong.
These two mentions in the movie club provide a hint.Mark faintly praised and allowed it. past life Was ‘exquisite’ while cracking it, unlike his beloved salt burn, it’s a gentle “love triangle that no one can rival.” Dana had a hint of disdain for Greta Lee’s character, calling her “the audience’s surrogate Mary Sue.”Has it become fashionable to dismiss? past life Flirty and endearing, like a typical Sundance movie, it’s somehow worthless because the characters happen to be “good, imperfect, honorable people trying hard to do the right thing.” mosquito?
I listened as Mark expressed that last characteristic with a kind of rude shrug. It’s as if that describes everyone in this conversation incredibly accurately. As if, in fact, it doesn’t explain 99 percent of 99 percent of the world’s people. Most of us aren’t ardent Nazis, quiet pioneer husbands, sex-obsessed sports car magnates, or mysterious writers who may or may not have pushed their girlfriends’ husbands off balconies. We are not the woman who had sex with her seventh grader in a pet store warehouse, nor the Hollywood actress who cleverly exploits her for her own professional and psychosexual ends. We’re not as insulting as Paul Hunnam at Burton Academy. (Bilge, you had the perfect opportunity to call me a pretentious idiot!)
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy movies about all these characters this year (with the exception of ferrari). But I reject that idea. past life‘ characters take the high road when dealing with trivial problems, but their stories were inherently undramatic and uninteresting.One of the many things I loved past life It was a dedication to allowing the characters to be kind even when the circumstances were difficult.
The film moves forward in time through the first dozen or so years of the lead couple, Na-young and Hye-sung, tracking them from childhood to adolescence. Na-young (Greta Lee), nicknamed Nora, leaves Korea for North America and plans to attend graduate school to become a writer. Hae-sung (Teo-yu) has close friends and family in South Korea, but after her military service, she yearns for the girl she remembers from her elementary school days. Their long courtship over Skype is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on film. Laid-back, glitchy, full of long pauses and urgent revelations of reconnection, the scenes depict two characters who have just entered adulthood yet long for the comforting connection of their youth. Many other things in their lives are preparing them for what their future will be. Could this person on the other side of the world be part of that future?
The more patient and optimistic Hye-sung can see them continuing this way for a while, but Nora grows restless. What’s the point of a Skype call, she asks herself, if they won’t see each other for over a year? And Nora, being a realistic thinker, dumps him before the relationship can deepen. The last time we see them before the next time jump, they are meeting new people. He is a young Chinese woman and she is a fellow writer named Arthur.
Ten years later, Nora and Arthur marry. Hye-sung has just broken up with her long-time girlfriend and is planning to visit New York. Her admiration for Hye-sung comes through like waves. Arthur is anxious about Hae-sung’s arrival and unsure of his place in her marriage. And Nora felt these two men jockeying around her, not exactly between them, but she felt the life she was living and everything else she could have lived. feel torn between their lives.
when i saw past life My teens were nervous at this point, convinced that what they were about to see was a set of awkward and painful confrontations between characters with natural opposing points. The film is positioned as the third act of a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding, a shouting match, a petulant fit, or a secret flirtation session and fist fight in an East Village bar. If there had been another movie, I would have loved it! – I would have liked the characters to be shown in different picturesque New York settings. However, I believe that Director Son made a more difficult and brave choice. It’s about forcing her three characters to choose their own path through their interactions, combining all the kindness, curiosity, and love they can muster.
It’s not that these characters are incredibly kind to each other or boring.They are struggle Be kind to each other. Nora overcomes her irritation with Hae-sung’s impositions because she remembers her love for Hae-sung’s outspokenness. Arthur overcomes Nora’s fear of this person who has to do with her old life, her life in Korea, and a side of her that he will never know, while also realizing that he also loves Hae Sung. I notice that.Hye-sung quells her heartbreak and resentment long enough to see a happy couple living her right life nowEven if it doesn’t actually include him.
past life is so quiet and, yes, exquisite, that I think it’s easy to overlook how sophisticated and genre-defying it is. This is part immigrant story, part chamber drama, part Bildungsroman, part Brechtian interrogation. Above all, this is an existential romance, one that takes seriously the big question we all ask ourselves: “Who is that person to me?” What is the life I want to live? And how do we come to terms with what we gave up when we chose that person and that life? In the midst of the Sturm and Drang of the movie world in 2023, some of which were amazing and some of which were really strong, readers (and award voters) found a film that depicted them with a warm, light touch. I hope you will keep it in your heart. elemental problem.
In those final moments on the curb, as Nora and Hae Sung look into each other’s eyes as they wait for an Uber, my teenagers are in agony, afraid that if they kiss, everything will be messed up and terrible. I groaned. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. That moment turned out to be a gift from the generous director, to her characters, and to us. They can really see each other just as we have seen them in real life. Sometimes I want artists to be gentle with their characters. Sometimes we want artists to be nice to us. As much as I want you to be kind every day, even if it’s difficult or you often fail.