Decision to Leave is a 2022 South Korean romantic mystery film produced, co-written and directed by Park Chan-wook. It stars Tang Wei and Park Hae-il. The film received acclaim from critics, who praised Chan-wook’s direction, the cinematography, and the performances of Park and Tang. It was selected as the South Korean entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards.
The premise of Decision to Leave is deceptively simple enough viz. an insomniac married detective Hae-Jun (Park) falls for a beautiful suspect Seo-Rae (Tang) in his investigation of the suspicious death of the suspect’s husband. Over the course of the film, the couple’s dysfunctional relationship will be defined by lies, deceit, forbidden desire and yes, even love. The film is the director’s tribute to Alfred Hitchcock in respect of the mystery elements and the nature of the lead characters’ doomed relationship.
Hae-Jun and Seo-Rae dominate the narrative and rightly so. Hae-Jun is a restless soul, trouble due to his lack of sleep and his ambivalence towards his wife – whom he only sees on the weekends as they live in separate cities due to work. Seo-Rae is the quintessential femme fatale, beautiful to the point of distraction and enigmatic to a fault. Neither character development is predictable and this only adds to the mystery and suspense.
Cinematography and Production Design
The camera work is flawless throughout, with intriguing angles and gorgeous landscapes to entice the eye. The film is also filled with interesting gadgets, furniture and costumes – the attention to detail here is dizzying. The film effectively caresses the audience’s vision time and again. But of course, the whole point is that things are not as they seem. Underneath the veneer of modernity lies the raw and raucous throb of anxiety and discontent.
Decision to Leave is yet another cinematic triumph from Park Chan-wook. There is nothing conventional about his film-making style, the director who gave us iconic films like Old Boy and Handmaiden remains at the top of his game. This movie thoroughly deserves a nomination for an Oscar Best Picture award and not merely Best International Feature. Highly recommended!
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