A Quieter, Less Graphic Park Chan-Wook Thriller: Decision to Leave (2022)

All photos courtesy of CJ Entertainment 

The film begins with the death of a man found at the base of a climbing cliff, and with the detective investigating the death, Jang He-joon (Park Hae-il) interviewing the widow, Song Sa-rae (Tang Wei). Song is Chinese, so the interview is rocky, and she often uses a phone translator to communicate. The investigation begins to create an obsession for Jang, who isn’t satisfied with easy answers

The plot, along Song and Jang’s relationship, continues onfor a longer span of time where their relationship, and each of their relationships with others, ebb and flow. Jang’s wife, who lives in a smaller city far outside of Busan, is a ‘weekend wife’, since Jang is mostly in Busan during the week and only with her on the weekends. 


Hitchcock influences are seen prominently in the first half, with plenty of references and tropes from both Rear Window and Vertigo. A detective’s obsession plays into the developing and twisted love story here, with plenty of interactions between the Jang and Song veering from playful to dangerous and back again. 


In interviews about the film, Chan-Wook described the film as him attempting to erase the boundaries between a detective film and a love story. When viewed from this lens, it totally works as a love story, in spite of having the structure of a detective story. 


Chan-Wook has created another beautiful and twisted story to enthrall viewers. However, this could be his least graphic film, with much of labyrinthine plot playing out in much quieter tones. The film has a two chase sequences that make for one thrilling set piece and for another hilarious scene; this wouldn’t be a Korean film if some slapstick or other sort of comedy wasn’t blended into the narrative. Viewers may find themselves dozing off during the second act, but should be able to reorient to the complex plot before the climax picks up again during the third act. 


Decision to Leave is playing in select theaters.

—Eric Beach