Movie, Reviews

“PAST LIFE” the Aftermath of Hell

Intriguing and Compelling the movie Past Life adds another true event story to the long list of films on the Holocaust. This one is based one of the survivors of the never to forget heinous act of genocide during World War II by Nazi Germany. The drama has a different twist that involves a family caught up in the aftermath leading to a confrontation in modern day. The acting is very good and direction commendable giving Past Life a high rating.

The film opens with people filing into a concert hall in Berlin. Germany to hear a coral group from Jerusalem. The concert hall is packed with people including prominent composer Thomas Zielinski (Rafael Stachowiak) and his mother Agnieszka (Katarzyna Gniewkowska). During the performance Agnieszka notices the name Sephi Milch (Joy Rieger) as one of the singers performing an aria and points it out to her son.

Sephi Milch (Joy Rieger) sings a solo at the Choir concert in Berlin in PAST LIFE

Following the performance by the choir, Agnieszka approaches Sephi at the reception area and in an angry tone tries to communicate with her in Polish. Not knowing the language, Thomas translates that his mother wants to know if she is the daughter of Dr. Baruch Milch (Doron Tavory). After replying that she is, the woman chastises her and calls her father a murderer.

Sephi Milch (Joy Rieger) approaches her father Dr Baruch Milch (Doron Tavory) in PAST LIFE

Completely perplexed by the comment, Sephi and her sister Nana (Nelly Tagar) start to look into the accusations. Director and writer Avi Nesher formulates an absorbing drama centering on an incident in the cellar of a house in Poland. It involves Dr. Milch, a jew, and Romek (Aryeh Cherner) while they were hiding there as Nazis were searching the houses in the area. He works his audience showing the suspicions of two daughters and their quest to get to the bottom of a controversy.

Sephi Milch (Joy Rieger) and her sister Nana (Nelly Tagar) in PAST LIFE

Thrown into the mix Nesher combines Sephi’s determination to become a composer and Nana’s troubling memories of her life in her father’s strict household. Both Joy Rieger and Nelly Tagar give heartfelt performances in a couple of tough roles. Rieger shows off her vocal talent along with Stephi’s tenacity and will to prove her father was not remiss in his actions while hiding from the Nazis. Tagar, a well-known Israeli actress does her part showing most of the emotional disharmony with her father.

Doron Tavory as Dr Baruch Milch in PAST LIFE

The standout however is Doron Tavory who has to depict both sides of Dr. Milch. Unaware that he would be fighting for his honor in the midst of a shocking act that had been buried some 65 years ago, Milch tries to defend himself. He works his character into a panic when his own daughter doesn’t believe his side of the story. Yet he presses on trying to clear himself with the aid of Lusia Milch (Evgenia Dodina), the stepmother of the two daughters.

The film has not been rated by the MPAA, but contains some violence, brief nudity and language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good drama that opens old wounds. 

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Nelly Tagar, Joy Rieger, Doron Tavory, Evgenia Dodina
Directed and written by: Avi Nesher
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films


MIAMI: AMC Aventura 24 –  19501 Biscayne Blvd #3001, Aventura, FL 33180
BOCA RATON: Living Room Theaters – 777 Glades Rd, Boca Raton, FL 33431
       ***Sunday, June 18th at Noon, skype Q/A with one of Israel’s most performed composers in recent years, Ella Milch-Sheriff (who is the basis for the character of “Sephi”)
Regal Cinemas Shadowood 16 – 9889 Glades Rd, Boca Raton, FL 33434
LAKE WORTH: Movies of Lake Worth –  7380 Lake Worth Rd, Lake Worth, FL 33467
DELRAY: Movies of Delray – 7421 W Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33446

The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.

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Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 12 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at