Past Life

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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