PAST LIVES*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens in a bar, where an unseen couple (Chase Sui Wonders and Isaac Powell) observe three different people – Nora (Greta Lee), Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), and Arthur (John Magaro) sitting across from them. They speculate as to who they are to each other, because Nora and Hae Sung are talking while Arthur is sitting next to Nora silently.
24 years earlier in Seoul, Na Young (Seung Ah Moon) and her friend Hae Sung (Seung Min Yim) are walking home. Na Young is upset because she came in second place to Hae Sung at school, but he notes that she always usually comes out as the smarter one. Na Young then goes to her parents (Ji Hye Yoon and Won Young Choi) and little sister Si Young (Seo Yeon-Woo), as they are preparing to immigrate to Canada and are coming up with English names. Na Young settles for “Nora”.
Na Young and Hae Sung’s mothers take them out to the park on their last day before leaving. When the two walk home together, Hae Sung can only tell Na Young “Bye” before she moves away.
Twelve years pass. Hae Sung has completed his tour in the military and returned home to Seoul, where he frequently meets with his friends to drink. Meanwhile, Nora is in college in New York. While chatting on the phone with her mother, they mention Hae Sung, whom Nora admits she had a crush on when they were kids. Nora’s mom mentions that Hae Sung had commented on a Facebook page for her father’s restaurant asking to find her. Nora reaches out to Hae Sung via a friend request.
Hae Sung responds, and the two begin chatting over webcam on Skype. They are overwhelmed but elated to see each other again after so long, and they begin to catch up. Nora is working on being a writer, while Hae Sung is set to go to China for a language exchange program. Hae Sung asks Nora why she never went back to Seoul, and while she says he should visit her in New York, they are both unable to travel. After some time, Nora tells Hae Sung they should stop talking for a while as she wants to focus on her work.
Nora later goes to a writers’ retreat where she meets Arthur. When they are alone at night, Nora talks to Arthur about the concept of “In-Yun” (providence), which comes from a Korean saying that some people know each other from past lives, and if one briefly passes someones randomly in their life, it means they knew each other from a previous incarnation. Lovers would have been together for multiple past lives. Nora and Arthur then become romantically involved. Elsewhere in China, Hae Sung appears to meet a young woman.
Another twelve years pass. Nora and Arthur are married and both work as writers. Nora is seen working at an audition for a play that she wrote. Arthur has also written a best-selling novel called “Boner” and is seen at a book signing with Nora by his side. Arthur has also made an effort to learn Korean for her.
Hae Sung arrives in New York after breaking up with his girlfriend, intending to find Nora. She spots him on the street, and they spend time together catching up once again. They spend a day touring the city and going on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. When Nora returns home, she mentions to Arthur that Hae Sung was indeed there to see her. Arthur expresses some concerns that Nora and Hae Sung are childhood sweethearts who later realize they are meant to be together, but Nora assures Arthur that she loves him.
Nora invites Hae Sung to dinner with her and Arthur. They go out and end up at the bar where they were seen in the opening. Nora and Hae Sung chat in Korean while Arthur is left to the side. Hae Sung mentions “In-Yun” and wonders to Nora who they were in each other’s past lives, but she says she doesn’t know. They acknowledge that they are different people from when they were kids and from the first time they reunited over the internet. When she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, Hae Sung apologizes to Arthur for speaking only in Korean, but he doesn’t mind.
The three return home, where Nora goes outside with Hae Sung to wait for his Uber to pick him up. They stand in silence staring at each other for about a minute before the car arrives. Hae Sung says they may be in one of their past lives at the moment and wonders where they will find each other again. They share a brief embrace before he leaves. Nora walks back to Arthur outside the door where she begins to cry into his arms.
The final shot shows Hae Sung in a car on his way to the airport, leaving New York behind.
Nora and her family immigrate to Canada from Seoul as a child, where she leaves behind her friend Hae Sung, who has always been in love with her. Twelve years later, the two reunite over Skype and chat frequently, until Nora tells him they should stop talking for a while because she wants to focus on her writing. Nora later meets another writer named Arthur and marries him.
Another twelve years pass, and Hae Sung goes to New York where Nora and Arthur now live so that he can visit her. He spends an evening with the couple, where he and Nora speak in Korean to each other about who they were to each other in their past lives (based on the Korean concept of "In-Yun", or "providence"). They know that they are different people from when they were kids to who they are now.
Nora and Hae Sung part ways for possibly the final time, with Nora crying into Arthur's arms after he leaves.