After the critical success of The Handmaiden and his English television debut The Little Drummer Girl, Korean director Park Chan-wook is back with Decision to Leave, which got him the Best Director award at Cannes. A police procedural turned romance film, it follows detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) as he investigates the death of a man who fell on top of a mountain, with the dead man’s wife, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), as the number one suspect. As Hae-joon investigates her, he also starts to develop feelings for her.
Decision to Leave is an engaging mystery-romance film that leaves you doubting yourself, as Seo-rae shows no grief and never loses her composure in the face of pressure.
This film doesn’t shy away from issues of Korean society. Seo-rae, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, is trapped in an abusive marriage. Questioned as to why she never reported the abuse, it sheds light on the reality migrant women face, especially the undocumented.
Park deserves to be called an auteur with his body of work, and this film only proves his mastery as it is one of the most creative and original films of 2022. A nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Decision to Leave is one of the most creative Hitchcock-inspired films in recent years. Park is one of the few directors of our time who has the same pull as Hitchcock back in the day and would be revered by future viewers the same as Hitchcock now.
That said, Park still gets to add his own twist and flair to it with the help of long-time collaborators like Chung Seo-kyeong, who co-wrote The Handmaiden and Lady Vengeance, and a first-time collaboration with cinematographer Kim Ji-yong, who has worked on films like Parasite and Okja.
Kim Ji-yong’s work on the film is a visual masterpiece. With the backdrop of the mountains to the beaches, Kim delivers beautiful mise-en-scene, each scene evoking the feeling of a painting. Kim also utilizes the zoom with such vigor and uses remarkable perspective shots framing each character’s imagination in the eyes of the viewer. Together with Chung Seo-kyeong’s compelling, poetic script, Decision to Leave pulls the viewer in.
These elements aside, the performances can make or break the film. Park and Chung’s choice to write the female lead as a Chinese migrant so they can cast actress Tang Wei worked so well as she delivers a delicate performance as an elusive character. She makes the viewers question whether or not she murdered her husband with her charms and gentleness.
Decision to Leave is one of the best films of this year, and Park Chan-wook continues to prove that he is a revered auteur that never fails to deliver.