LFF 2022: Decision To Leave – Review

Release Date – 21st October 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 19 minutes, Director – Park Chan-wook

When investigating the potential murder of a dead body at the bottom of a mountain a detective (Park Hae-il) finds himself conflicted in suspecting the deceased man’s widow (Tang Wei).

The trailer for Decision To Leave poses a dark, mysterious modern noir. Perhaps the biggest surprise delivered when watching the film is just how funny it is. Yes, there’s definitely a direct seriousness at its core, yet the presence of occasional humour, and what feels like an overall comic relief character in the form of the central detective’s partner, Soo-wan (Go Kyung-pyo). Perhaps the humour that he brings in further shows the experience, and tiredness, of Park Hae-il’s leading Hae-jun. A detective thrown into a mysterious death case. Early on he’s torn between calling it a suicide and trying to find a suspect, something which is only increased when he interviews the deceased man’s wife, Seo-rae (Tang Wei).

As the two interact more over the course of the film Hae-jun becomes more and more conflicted as to whether he believes Seo-rae committed the murder or not, particularly with there being very little evidence. You can see his mind working at a gradual, thoughtful pace. Half of it on the case, the other on the mysterious woman he keeps returning to, both for his investigation and personal reasons. Interest in the film, and indeed the relationship between the pair, is created through the fact that Tang’s character avoids feeling like a standard femme-fatale, partly down to the film’s quiet ambiguity about her. Presenting the character in a very direct manner. It’s a point pushed by, at least for much of the time they’re together, the lack of a romantic bond between the two – although this is seemingly part of the detective’s interest in the potential suspect.

There’s interest in the way things play out and how Hae-jun’s mind controls the course of the investigation and how it pans out. This includes focusing on his own personal life and his relationship with his wife, who he only really sees on weekends due to his job in Busan taking him away from his home. As we see a slight shift in the second half there’s the chance for things to entirely step somewhere slightly different, however co-writer (alongside Seo-kyeong Jeong) and director Park Chan-wook manages to keep things consistent and feeling as one whole piece instead of divided up into two different-feeling sections.

Of course, as many appear to have expected from a Park Chan-wook film, Decision To Leave’s visual style is excellent. Not just down to the direction, but also the arresting cinematography of Ji-yong Kim. Particularly bringing a much more striking feel to the final stages which relish in their visuals and the way in which they add to, and tell, the story. One which moves its characters and their mindsets along with it in a way which keeps the audience engaged thanks to the interesting conflictions which control and plague the investigation of the central figure, and the case which is made more complicated (both for those in the film and those watching it) by his thoughts.

Managing to generally avoid feeling as if it falls under the umbrella of a clichéd noir, Decision To Leave’s story moves its characters into interesting places thanks to bringing their mindsets and views on the central case into question, allowing for an effective set of conflictions to progress the overall piece.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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