Past Life is a post-Holocaust historical drama that revolves around a climactic secret. Scene after scene, the audience obtains a new hint or important detail as hard-working Israeli sisters Sephi and Nana (Joy Rieger and Nelly Tagar) uncover more of their family’s past.
A life-changing moment occurs when too many people get involved and the girls’ father eventually agrees to explain his story of hiding himself and his colleagues from roaming Nazis – this exposes an unseen vulnerability from all sides. Meanwhile, Nana – ironically – keeps a tragic secret about her health.
A well-rounded production and committed performances by Rieger and Tagar make this movie from writer/director Avi Nesher a solid piece of work. However, it’s also a spotty film due to an uneven screenplay and misguided editing that seemingly skips over key events. All is almost forgiven during a storytelling redemption involving an important flashback that magically transports the girls from their present year – 1977 – and into their father’s confession. It’s a masterfully staged sequence with top-notch lighting. It stands out due to a dedicated crew and a lucid vision provided by Nesher – it blew me away.
Other stylistic moments are few and far between in Past Life, but that’s because Nesher realizes the strength of his cast and aspires to make a movie that’s more character-driven than anything else. Even though Avi Nesher occasionally strains to make this movie work, his intuition is admirable.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie