Film Review: “Past Life” (2016) ★★★★


Past life always has something painful that many of us would not like to go back to re-experience. However, the past life or anything that has happened there can be an excellent medicine to cure the most outrageous and disturbing sickness – an unforgiving mind. Indeed, it would never be a pleasant trip, but the price of redemption is worth going through the nightmare to find, at the end of the day, light at the end of the tunnel.

Nana and Sephi Milch are two sisters who, seemingly, had nothing to worry about. At least about their future. But that future is threatened by the appearance of a woman during a reception night when she recognizes in Sephi a daughter of a man who she believed was the reason of death of people she cared about. Nana, who admires her father does not believe any words said by, most likely an insane woman, who might not have had a chance to recover from WWII, but Nana, her eldest sister, Sephi thinks otherwise and believes their father is a cruel man who is capable of doing what he was accused of.

But as the story unfolds, it does not take much effort from Nana to convince Sephi to investigate the matter and find out whether their father was a war criminal, or it was some sort of accident. Nana, on the other hand, still disagrees with her sister, but embarks herself into a roller coaster ride where you as a viewer, as you get a chance to learn more about  the past of their father Baruch Milch, will understand the choices even he had to make were not so easy. But will their own children understand that and forgive him for that is certainly not easy to predict.

The things turns more dangerous for Baruch, when Nana gets an invite from Thomas Zielinski, a German conductor who gets a special visa for her to Warsaw to perform at the concert. But the tricky part is, Thomas is tied  to the event that happens in the past, that will escalate into a storm into the life of Milch’s family and change the course of their life forever.

The concept of PAST LIFE from the acclaimed Israeli director Avi Nesher may not be unique, but outstanding. He cleverly challenges family drama combining it with the war and a beautiful classical music. He gives to each character he creates a visibility, like in a chess, each figure has their own move to make. But only one will make the final one, to celebrate the victory. But what is the price of victory or redemption, obviously the Milch family have yet to find. However, it’s Zeilinski who has the final word to say that you will have to watch to find out.

In conclusion, PAST LIFE is an emotional drama where each of us have something to learn from. It is, in a way, an educational movie showing that pain sometimes not caused by physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury, but by traumatic past, that can make the soul to bleed, which I am afraid, tissue or piece of gauze would not be able to stop. But redemption, understanding and willingness to let it go might be a good start for a new beginning. It’s a matter of exercising an opportunity given, if the victims of PAST LIFE will consider that.

Past Life screens at 1:00pm and 4:00pm on Sunday January 15, 2017 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, 5095 Yonge St.  (North York Centre subway station). Tickets are $16 in advance at TJFF.COM or 416-324-9121.  (Cash only at door, subject to availability,)

Coffee and tea served in-theatre prior to screening. Seating is guaranteed until 15 minutes prior to screening start time.

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