VOD film review: Decision to Leave
Martyn Conterio | On 25, May 2022
Decision to Leave premiered at Cannes 2022. It will be released by MUBI in the UK and Ireland this autumn.
Decision to Leave delivers the element of surprise. If you go in expecting an Old Boy? a Thirst or a Handmaiden, you’ll be disappointed. Very much so. Park Chan-wook’s new film, premiered at Cannes, is a love story, a deconstructed thriller, a neo-noir featuring two damaged individuals.
Park Hae-il plays a cop named Hae-jun. One morning, he’s called out to a mountain where a climber has fallen to his death. When the victim’s wife is interviewed, a beautiful Chinese immigrant, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), she acts oddly enough for Hae-jun to start an investigation into her. Was the husband’s death an accident at all? Was he bumped off by an abused wife pushed to revenge? Or was he killed for the contents of his bank account?
As the investigation goes on, Hae-jun becomes increasingly captivated by Seo-rae, who may well be something of a black widow-style murderer. Are her romantic overtures a honeypot ploy to compromise Hae-jun, or is there something real and true going on between them?
Now, in a straightforward thriller, a game of cat and mouse would ensue, a Basic Instinct-like setup would play out, the unwitting man drawn into the layer of the spider and the director would rinse every last bit of tension from the “is she or isn’t she a killer?” angle. But that’s been done before and Park Chan-wook has zero interest in making a tired rehash of genre tropes. Instead, Decision to Leave becomes strangely tender and melancholic, as the cop and the suspect, two deeply unhappy people, enter into a forbidden relationship, a sick kind of love affair with no physical contact – it’s more they appear to come alive by getting off on the restrictions placed on them by his job and her potential criminal status, on their roles as law enforcement officer and prime suspect. As it charts its consistently surprising course, Decision to Leave probes and prods the unique impulses stirring in both characters, revealing their desires and obsessions as too problematic and warped to ever lead to a shot at happiness.
One thing is for sure: Park Chan-wook has discovered a new side to his filmmaking, and the result is fireworks.