Shropshire Star

Film Talk: Latest Movie Releases – Celine Song makes feature directorial debut with Past Lives

The little ones are back at school, but just as we thought the summer was coming to an end we’ve been hit with a glorious bout of sunshine!

Past Lives: Greta Lee as Nora and Teo Yoo as Hae Sung

And while the weather this week will not have been the stuff to inspire huddling in darkened cinemas, multiplexes across the land have delivered some fresh (and some not-so-fresh) offerings to tempt us.

Speaking of being back in the classroom, this week director Richard Linklater’s music-comedy smash School Of Rock celebrates its incredible 20th anniversary. In line with this, audiences can catch Jack Black at his finest with a re-release of this now classic treat. For those about to rock, we salute you!

Elsewhere, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is looking to make a sequel splash. I can hardly believe that it has been over 20 years since the original dropped and introduced us to one of the most lovable families ever to grace the screen. Who can’t adore a dad whose solution to every problem in life is to “put Windex on it”? But does this third chapter pack the same charm as part one?

Next up, who said that nuns were just the stuff of sitcom legend Father Jack Hackett’s nightmares? Another flick looking to pack a sequel punch, The Nun II places Taissa Farmiga’s Sister Irene back in the habit and facing off once more with a terrifying spectral counterpart. For anyone looking for a pre-Halloween horror fix, this could be the one of the week for you.

And topping the bill of new releases, we have writer-director Celine Song’s romantic drama Past Lives. Marking Song’s feature directorial debut, this one follows the relationship between two childhood friends over the course of over two decades of ups, downs and distance.

Let’s take a closer look...

PAST LIVES (12A, 106 mins)

Released: September 8 (UK & Ireland)

During a tender scene at twilight in writer-director Celine Song’s achingly beautiful drama, two aspiring writers discuss Inyeon, the Korean notion of providence or fate, which dreamily supposes strangers whose clothes brush as they pass in the street are destined to collide because of past relationships.

“That’s just something Koreans say to seduce someone,” smirks the woman.

Destiny exerts an undeniable, gravitational pull on every heart-rending frame of Past Lives, a melancholic meditation on missed opportunities inspired by Song’s life (she grew up in South Korea, moved to Canada with her family and now lives in New York with writer husband Justin Kuritzkes).

Nothing is left to fate in the playwright’s impressive debut feature.

We feel characters’ yearning and regret ripple off the screen across three timelines, each 12 years apart, elegantly distilled into bilingual conversations and silent glances.

It’s a masterclass in understatement and restraint, reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, focusing on connections between richly drawn, star-crossed protagonists who articulate the churn of emotions beneath their placid surfaces.

Song’s experience as a playwright nourishes a clearly defined three-act structure and sparse, naturalistic dialogue.

In the charming, earliest segment, 12-year-old academic high-flyer Na Young (Moon Seung-ah) nurtures a crush on classmate Hae Sung (Leem Seung-min) in Seoul.

“I will probably marry him,” the girl confides to her artist mother (Yoon Ji-hye), who organises a first date between the children as a happy memory before the family, including Na Young’s filmmaker father (Choi Won-young) and younger sister, emigrates to Canada.

Na Young changes her name to Nora and the children lose touch.

Twelve years later, Hae Sung (now played by Teo Yoo) reconnects over Zoom with Nora (Greta Lee), who has relocated from Toronto to New York.

The intensity of their online connection distracts Nora from dreams of becoming a writer so she suggests an emotional timeout.

“We’re just taking a brief break,” she assures a crestfallen Hae Sung.

Days later at a writers’ retreat in Montauk, Nora meets Arthur (John Magaro) and they contemplate Inyeon before a first kiss.

Twelve years pass and Nora and Arthur are now married.

Hae Sung visits New York from South Korea, supposedly on vacation, and Arthur astutely imagines the dramatic tension if literary art were to imitate life: “In the story, I would be the evil, white American standing in the way of destiny…”

Past Lives will be a strong contender for next year’s Academy Awards, assuredly stacking up the ‘what ifs’ as the central trio of Lee, Yoo and Magaro navigate the undertows and rip currents of relationships across decades.

“This is my life and I’m living it with you,” Nora assures Arthur in bed one night. We’re thrilled to be living it with her and feel every sob, sigh and devastating body blow.

THE NUN II (15, 110 mins)

Released: September 8 (UK & Ireland)

The Nun II: Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene

Demonic nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons) was introduced in The Conjuring 2 to strike fear into the hearts of cinema audiences as well as paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga).

The hellish harpy in a habit warranted a standalone feature in 2018, pitting fresh-faced postulant Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) against this lingering evil in 1952 in the auspicious surroundings of the Abbey of St Carta in Romania.

Michael Chaves, director of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, helms a sequel penned by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing and Akela Cooper, set four years later.

Sister Irene moves to France where she comes face-to-face again with the spectral nemesis following the suspicious death of a priest.

Evil continues to flourish and Irene looks to God-fearing allies including Sister Debra (Storm Reid) for spiritual sustenance.


Released: September 8 (UK & Ireland)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3: Nia Vardalos as Toula and John Corbett as Ian

Released in 2002, My Big Fat Greek Wedding became one of the sleeper hits of the year, amassing more than 300 million dollars worldwide off a production budget of a mere five million dollars.

The dysfunctional Portokalos clan returns in a romantic comedy sequel written and directed by Nia Vardalos, which transplants familiar characters to sunnier climes.

Following the death of her father Gus, Toula Portokalos (Vardalos) honours his dying wish to take the entire family to his childhood village and reconnect with their Greek roots.

Toula’s husband Ian (John Corbett) joins the madcap expedition along with extended family including her brother Nick (Louis Mandylor) and “favourite” Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin).

Ian and Toula’s spirited daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is less than thrilled to discover Aristotle (Elias Kacavas) is booked on the same flight to Greece.

Far from the family home in Chicago and the Dancing Zorba’s restaurant, different generations learn valuable lessons about compassion.

NO MORE BETS (15, 130 mins)

Released: September 8 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Inspired by tens of thousands of real cyber fraud cases, No More Bets has become one of the highest-grossing films of the year just from admissions in China.

Director Shen Ao’s crime thriller is poised to stalk international territories, punctuated by scenes of brutal violence.

Programmer Pan Sheng (Lay Zhang) and model Liang Anna (Gina Jin) are separately enticed by the prospect of lucrative jobs overseas, blissfully unaware that they are being lured into the clutches of a criminal network.

Imprisoned against their will, Pan and Liang are forced to commit cyber fraud on strangers and any dissent is met with physical punishment.

Pan leverages his technical expertise to survive while Liang is forced to work as a croupier.

When one tragic target loses all his money because of the deception, tenacious police officer Zhao Dongran (Yong Mei) vows to bring the perpetrators to justice.

SCHOOL OF ROCK (12A, 109 mins)

Released: September 8 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

“God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people’s minds with our high voltage rock. In your name we pray, Amen.”

To mark its 20th anniversary, director Richard Linklater’s rumbustious romp strums back into selected cinemas, promising Dead Poets Society with electric guitars and an attitude.

Jack Black plays perpetual dreamer Dewey Finn, who masquerades as his responsible yet dull roommate, a substitute teacher who is due to teach the 5th grade at a nearby private school.

Dewey quickly surmises that his intelligent young wards are anything but pushovers.

Under the guise of a secret school project, Dewey secretly enters the students in a battle of the bands-style competition, in the hope of scooping a portion of the prize money to pay off his debts.

School Of Rock was the highest-grossing music-themed comedy of all time until the release of Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015.

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