Films where childhood sweethearts reunite as adults, fall in love, and have a happy life ever after are plenty. But what about the movies where there’s no happy ending due to fate and choices made? Past Lives by Celine Song is all about that.
The story is about Nora and Hae Sung. They first meet as 12-year-olds in Seoul, South Korea, and form a strong connection. However, Nora later leaves for Canada, and the two lose touch. But they met again after 12 years.
The two have a long-distance relationship, but soon, they realize that they can’t uproot their lives to see each other in person, let alone think about a future where they can be together. So they decide to stop talking. But as fate would have it, they meet after 12 years under entirely different circumstances.
Even though Nora and Hae Sung reunite in New York after 12 years, their lives are in vastly different places. She is married to Arthur, and he is on a break from his girlfriend. They realize that their relationship isn’t meant to be even though they believe in the idea of in-yeon or destiny. The film’s message is that fate doesn’t gift a fairytale relationship to everyone and that distance and circumstances change everything in a relationship.
What Is the Ending of Past Lives Movie?
At the end of Past Lives, Hae Sung and Nora meet 12 years after deciding to call off their long-distance relationship. Their lives are at different junctions now, with Nora being married to Arthur and Hae Sung on a break from his relationship.
The two of them reunite in New York, and it’s clear that the sparks are there. But none of them act on it. They spend the day together, and Nora takes him to meet Arthur. They all get dinner together, and Hae Sung finally tells Nora his feelings.
Hae Sung also says that he likes Arthur even though he thought he would hate him. At the end of the day, they all head back home. Arthur stays in the house while Nora sees Hae Sung off in a cab. None of them say anything; they just look at each other with loaded stares.
The cab comes, but before Hae Sung leaves, he asks her if this is one of their past lives. If it is, what will they be to each other in their next lives? Nora doesn’t answer affirmatively. She says that she doesn’t know. He then gets into the cab and leaves.
When Nora returns to the apartment, she finds Arthur waiting outside, and she cries. The ending shows that at least Hae Sung found the closure he wanted in this life from Nora. His what-ifs have been answered because he sees she is happy with her husband.
This is why he asks about the next life because, in this one, their lives have already diverged so much from each other that it’s past the point of any return. Nora has chosen her husband of 7 years and isn’t willing to uproot that to give Hae Sung and her a chance.
Why Is Nora Crying at the End of Past Lives?
In the end, when Nora sees Hae Sung in a cab, he asks her if this was one of their past lives and what their lives will be like in the next one. She has no positive answer to that question because she can’t control fate. They look at each other’s eyes, and then Hae Sung leaves.
When Nora returns to her home, she finds Arthur waiting for her outside and cries. The film shows us that she was a crybaby as a child in Korea. In fact, even Hae Sung remarks on how easily she used to cry as a kid.
Later, even Arthur seems surprised by this revelation because she has never cried before him. She stopped crying when her family moved to Canada because she realized no one cared about her there.
It was a different world where she would have to toughen up, and it was probably also a place that saw crying as a weakness. So when she finally cries in front of Arthur after years, it shows that she is ready to return to a more vulnerable place, which she hasn’t been able to do since immigrating.
The fact that she is willing to show that side to her husband and not Hae Sung means that she is committed to growing her marriage with him. Also, it shows that she can let go of her hard shell because Arthur will be there to care for her.
That’s not all. At a glance, it might seem like Nora is crying because she misses being unable to be with Hae Sung because of her marriage. But that isn’t the correct interpretation of that moment.
Instead, Nora cries because she doesn’t know what the path with Hae Sung would have led to. They could have had a beautiful life, but she had no idea if that would have been a reality because she shuts the door firmly on that possibility. Instead, she chooses her husband and what they have built together, which is reality rather than a dream.
What Is the Message in Past Lives?
The name of the film is Past Lives, and it certainly elaborates on it. The themes or message of the movie revolve around the concept of ‘In-yeon,’ which means destiny or the connection between people over their lives.
Hae Sung especially believes that he and Nora share this bond, but circumstances prevent them from being together. Nora’s husband Arthur even comments on this because the idea of childhood sweethearts being together is romantic.
Even if they were fated to be together, physical distance and other circumstances killed that dream, and by the time they met again in New York, Nora was married and had moved on with Arthur. Even though Hae Sung and his girlfriend were on a break with each other, he understood that he had no chance with Nora.
This gave him closure from the relationship with Nora, which he had wanted since she moved away to Canada as a child. Finally, he could move on as well.
So, both accepted their fate in their current life and moved on from each other. However, their time together allowed them to self-reflect and become better people.
Who Does Nora Pick in Past Lives?
In the end, Nora and Hae Sung spend the day together with each other, but it doesn’t change anything drastically between them, at least not in the way the audience hoped. Viewers hoped that Nora would leave her marriage to be with Hae Sung, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, Nora picked her husband, Arthur, with whom she had built a life. Hae Sung also understood that the door to their relationship was closed because they both realized that they were looking to rekindle the pure relationship they had when they were kids.
But a lot of time has passed since then, and Nora is old enough not to chase after dreams of fairytale romance. Before leaving, Hae Sung asks her what they will be to each other in their next life, but she cannot give him a positive answer because she doesn’t know.
She says it will be determined by fate and out of their control, just like this life was. Pondering over something that they have no control over is futile. Hae Sung looks relaxed and peaceful in the cab because he finally knows it’s time to move on from Nora.
Will Past Lives Make You Cry?
Yes, Past Lives will make you cry. After all, it is a film about childhood sweethearts separated by distance and fate. No matter how much Nora and Hae Sung believed in the idea of in-yeon and past lives, they weren’t meant to be together
in this one.
Sitting with some tissues is better because the film will touch your heart. However, it’s not entirely a sad ending as Nora loves Arthur and doesn’t want to throw it away to reach for something that might not be as perfect as the little Nora had hoped years ago.
What are your thoughts about the ending of Past Lives?
Were you satisfied with it? Did you think Nora and Hae Sung should have been together in the end? Or would that have been too cheesy, and the actual one was more realistic?
Let us know in the comments below.