There’s four key players in Celine Song’s debut film, Past Lives. Its three actors – Greta Lee, Teo Yoo and John Magaro – and an ever-present fourth. The idea of in-yun, something that the director explains as being “commonplace in Korea” and in other countries with an Eastern philosophy. Put simply, it’s all about human connection in all its shapes and forms, something that’s almost impossible to encapsulate in one word.
Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sun (Teo Yoo) are close as children and she has a crush on him, but the two are separated when her family emigrates to Toronto. Years later, they re-connect through social media and talk regularly on Skype but when she decides to concentrate on becoming a writer, it all comes to an abrupt halt. At a writers’ retreat, she meets Arthur (John Magaro) and, when the story moves forward by twelve years, they’re married and living in New York. Hae Sun is planning a trip to the city, gets back in touch and she suspects he’s not there on holiday, but deliberately coming to see her.
In this interview, Song describes her personal involvement in the story – “I was translating for these two guys who didn’t speak the same language and also came from different cultures and they both have different relationships with me” – and why she wanted to put it on the screen, as well as the concept of in-yun. She also reflects on how she cast her three main actors, Magaro in particular who is already attracting Oscar buzz for his role in the film and why, despite a theatrical background, her future is very much in the cinema.
Past Lives is released in UK cinemas on 8th September. | Read our review of the film.