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Laramie Movie Scope: Past Lives

Realism vs Romance

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 18, 2023 – This subtle film touches upon a number of subjects common to many romantic films, while carefully staying rooted in reality. It touches upon the idea of destiny, young love, first love, trying to recapture the magic of first love, and the relative quality of love in a settled, married life.

The movie centers around the Korean idea of “In-Yun.” The movie's main character, Na Young (who later changes her name to Nora Moon when she moves to America) describes In-Yun this way, “It means 'providence' or 'fate.' But it's specifically about relationships between people. I think it comes from Buddhism and reincarnation. It's an In-Yun if two strangers even walk by each other in the street and their clothes accidentally brush, because it means there must have been something between them in their past lives. If two people get married, they say it's because there have been 8,000 layers of In-Yun.”

Nora (played as a young girl by Seung Ah Moon, and later, played as an adult by Greta Lee) goes through many stages of love during the 24-year span of this story. The story begins as Na Young (who later changes her name to Nora) falls in love with a boy, Hae Sung (played as a child by Seung Min Yim) in Korea, shortly before her family moves to Canada.

The years pass, and Nora grows up to be a writer and moves to the United States. Hae Sung (played as an adult by Teo Yoo) grows up to be an engineer in Korea. The two have not been in contact for 12 years. One day, Nora notices on Facebook that Hae Sung had been looking for her, so she contacts him via video chat.

The two spend some time on video chats catching up with what they've been doing over the years. While Hae Sung wants to continue to contact Nora, she decides that they should not continue with this long distance relationship. Hae Sung is studying in China, while Nora is trying to make it as a playwright in New York City. She wants to focus on her career. The two stop talking.

Nora then meets another writer, Arthur Zaturansky (John Magaro of “First Cow”) and the two get married, but years later Hae Sung shows up again, this time in New York to visit with Nora and Arthur. Nora and Hae Sung have intense discussions in Korean, but Arthur knows enough Korean to have an idea of what is going on. He knows that Hae Sung is still carrying a torch for Nora.

Arthur begins to wonder if Nora still has a spark of love for Hae Sung. Arthur even wonders aloud if Nora really loves him, and if she just married him in order to become a U.S. citizen. Arthur even sees, as a writer, that the story of of Nora and Hae Sung getting back together again after all these years would make a great love story.

So what happens with this romantic triangle? Well, this is not the usual romantic story and this is not the usual kind of romantic movie. It deftly walks a fine line between romanticism and reality. It is subtle, not heavy-handed. It is low-key, without gigantic emotional fireworks. There is real emotion, which finally is revealed, but it is just under the surface most of the time. This is a very well-written and acted film. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]