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Decision to Leave – Movie Review
November 8, 2022

Synopsis: A detective investigating a man’s death in the mountains meets the dead man’s mysterious wife during his dogged sleuthing.
Director: Park Chan-wook
Stars: Park Hae-il, Tang Wei, Lee Jung-hyun

In 2013, Spike Lee released a movie called Oldboy, I really enjoyed it, but several people told me, “You have to see the Korean version.” They weren’t wrong.

The original film by director Park Chan-wook deserves all the respect it has received. The Korean director has made many films and is lauded for his work. Oldboy, which was part of his Vengeance Trilogy, is an example of the strong films he makes.

His newest film, Decision to Leave, follows a detective named Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il), a respected officer of the law who is very good at solving cases. He doesn’t like to sleep and often stays up late. His newest case is a murder. At the centre of the investigation is the wife of the victim, Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei). Jang is married but still finds himself drawn to Song.

The beautifully shot film combines mystery and a romantic story. We have seen this type of relationship in films like Basic Instinct and Someone to Watch Over Me, where the investigator develops an interest in the person at the centre of the case.

Decision to Leave goes deeper, though, in several ways. Those other films had sex as a major factor; this film doesn’t go down that yellow brick road. This movie also doesn’t focus heavily on violence. These are murder investigations, yes plural, but the focus is kept on the characters, which are fascinating.

The detective would rather pull all-night stakeouts on his prime suspect than lay in bed with his wife. The suspect not only seems to crave attention but requires it from the lead detective. There is sexual tension here, make no mistake, but exploring these characters is the focus.  

I found myself invested in the characters and very interested to see what happens. Basic Instinct and Someone to Watch Over Me may have been a little predictable but not this film.

This is one of the more romantic films of 2022, and to say that about a film where the thing that separates our main characters is a murder investigation is admittedly odd, but it works.

This is a great movie by a great filmmaker. Decision to Leave is another reminder of the amazing content coming out of Korea. ParasiteSquid GameBTS . . . Yes, I said it!

Chan-wook has directed one of the best films of 2022. It’s more subtle than some of his other films, but that’s the beauty of it. Character development isn’t usually this wonderful; Chan-wook has delivered a truly memorable film.

Grade: A-

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