Decision to Leave Review: Park Chan-wook’s romantic neo-noir

A tale of betrayal, passion and murder, Decision to Leave is a beautiful and instigating romantic neo-noir. It makes us hostage, but leaves no trail.

Korean director Park Chan-wook, mostly known through The Handmaiden and Oldboy, carefully develops the picture (the first after 6 years), navigating in less explicit scenes, when compared to his other features. From the beginning, Decision to Leave is made of details, a glance, small conversations, slowly building the drama, mystery and a more blunt approach. Every moment is full of information, it’s Chan-wook’s invitation to not take our eyes off the screen.

Decision to Leave (2022) – Moho Films

In addition, like a classic noir, we  have a detective, Jan Hae-jun, masterfully played by Park Hae-il, a femme fatale, Song Seo-rae, incredly interpreted by Tang Wei, and a crime: the death of Seo-rae’s husband. At first, the investigation of the supposed accident runs fluidly, but when tips indicate a possible murder, detective Hae-jun, a married man, decides to go after the primal suspect: Seo-rae.

The film unravels through the long staking outs her home, his imagination of her thoughts and the follow-up to several trails. Extraordinarily attracted by the suspect, the investigation becomes a desire-filled and passion-aimed path, where his relations might change the outcome of the story.

Sometimes confusing, the movie thoroughly follows its initial proposal, the movie nose-dives into relationship development, without failing to give a sense of mystery to every scene.

“Confucius said, ‘The wise love the water, the benevolence the mountains.’ I am not benevolent. I like the sea.”

Song Seo-rae

Apart from all similarities, Chan-wook’s take on the usual noir character is what makes it truly special. The depth and exploitation of their traits and weaknesses is definitely one of the memorable aspects of the feature.

The detective, Hae-jun,  a workaholic insomniac is far from a mystery genius and a “simple” distraction from his monotone life doesn’t fail to put his morals and emotions to the test, putting the attraction and his career on the scale. Uncertain and sensitive to the core, the detective is very much human.

Seo-rae on the other hand, is also not our usual femme fatale: despite being mysterious (sometimes borderline shady), her shell also serves as protection to her deep self conflicts and problems, such as being an illegal immigrant in a very hostile environment.

The amazing cinematography work by Kim Ji-yong and misè-en-scene (the arrangement of scenery in a scene), with loads of zoom-ins, zoom-outs, top angles and close-up shots (deeply inspired by Hitchcock), along the great thrillery tunes by Jo Yeong-wook don’t fail to immerse the viewer in the movie, exacerbating not only the crime aura but the characters’ moral internal struggle.

Eye close-up – Moho Films

Winning for Best Director in Cannes and participating in other film festivals, such as Toronto and Vienna’s, Decision to Leave is about crime, desire and finding (un)balance.

Mesmerizing, somewhat confusing, and amazingly real, Park Chan-wook’s latest feature is a gem for all crime and romance fans.

Article by Mariana Sousa


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