Past Lives' Greta Lee believes in fate after thinking she missed out on movie

Greta Lee in Past Lives
Greta Lee in Past Lives (Image credit: A24)

The idea of in yun in Korean deals with the connection between two people that may be fated. For Greta Lee, she had a feeling of in yun with the Past Lives script.

Past Lives is a new indie movie from A24 that is now playing in the US (expanding nationwide on June 23 and to the UK on September 8). It tells the story of Nora (Lee), who reconnects with her childhood sweetheart Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) more than 20 years after she and her family immigrated from South Korea to North America. Are Nora and Hae Sung destined to be together or is Nora's life with her American husband, Arthur (John Magaro)?

The movie first premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it received rave reviews, a sentiment that What to Watch echoed in our five-star Past Lives review. For Lee, however, the journey of this movie started a long time ago, as she spoke at a post-screening Q&A about an immediate connection with the script from playwright and first-time filmmaker Celine Song in what felt like its own bit of fate.

"I have in yun with the script," she said. "Yes, it was a soulmate script. We had a relationship that spans… 8,000 layers."

Lee said she was gut-punched by the movie's ability to subvert the notion of what a modern love story can be and how Song was able to craft something that was intimate and universal as well as cosmic and existential, ultimately about "the human experience of being alive."

But it was not a straight line for Lee to go from reading the script to being Nora. "It was a process," she detailed. "I got a call out of the blue a year after I read it for the first time when I had, you know, put it away in my mind, thought 'oh, someone else is going to be very lucky to do this and I can't wait to see this movie.' And then, yeah, we [her and Song] met on Zoom … we connected."

Greta Lee and Teo Yoo sitting on a ferry in Past Lives

Greta Lee and Teo Yoo in Past Lives (Image credit: Jon Pack/A24)

In fact, Lee joked that she had some great chemistry during her reads with Song, saying that she made for a really good Hae Sung, teasing co-star Teo Yoo about it.

Lee is having a moment right now in her career. She has been popping up in well known TV shows and movies since 2006, including Girls, New Girl, Sisters, Russian Doll and The Morning Show, but she has the incredible one-two punch of Past Lives and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse right now (she voices the AI system Lyla in the latter). The moment may continue, as the buzz around Past Lives and Lee's performance may mean she is part of the awards season chatter later in the year.

Past Lives is playing exclusively in movie theaters. Check out our guide on what you need to know to watch Past Lives and more.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.