Main Cast: Park Hae-Il, Tang Wei, Lee Jung-Hyun, Go Kyung-Pyo
The award-winning Decision to Leave is director Park Chan-Wook’s latest film. The South Korean movie follows the life of Jang Hae-Joon (played by Park Hae-Il), a dedicated and well-respected detective committed to solving murder cases. Despite having a loving wife and son, Hae-Joon spends the majority of his time trying to identify and arrest various murderers and lives in a separate apartment to minimize his commute to the police station.
After investigating a man’s death in the mountains, he meets Song Seo-Rae (played by Tang Wei), the dead man’s wife. Seo-Rae is immediately considered a suspect for her husband’s murder, however she is shrouded in mystery. Despite being Korean, Seo-Rae was an illegal immigrant from China. Prior to his retirement, Seo-Rae’s deceased husband worked at the Office of Immigration and assisted her in becoming a Korean citizen.
While interviewing Seo-Rae, Hae-Joon finds himself interested and drawn to her. In addition to having a desire to protect Seo-Rae, Hae-Joon begins to tail her as he attempts to prove her innocence in her husband’s untimely death. However, his feelings towards Seo-Rae begins to impact his relationships and clouds his judgment and the investigation. Eventually, Seo-Rae’s husband’s murder case is resolved and Seo-Rae and Hae-Joon part ways. However, they are suddenly reunited when Seo-Rae suddenly appears in Hae-Joon’s hometown and is investigated for the death of her new husband.
On the surface Decision to Leave seems like a classic mystery and detective story as Hae-Joon attempts to understand the motive and reason for Seo-Rae’s husband’s death. However, the film quickly grows beyond this theme as it dives deeper into Seo-Rae and Hae-Joon’s relationship as his investigation quickly morphs from genuine curiosity to obsession. What starts as reasonable investigative tailing activities escalate to overly attentive (and low-key stalker) behavior as Hae-Joon thrusts himself into Seo-Rae’s daily life.
As Hae-Joon grows increasingly closer to Seo-Rae, he always remains slightly hesitant and distrustful of her. It seems as if he never fully believes her innocence and assumes the worst of her. Although Seo-Rae consumes his thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder if Hae-Joon actually understands her and if he truly sees her for who she is.
Overall, Decision to Leave is a very artistic film. The camera angles, background music, and constant flipping from past to present only adds to the unique tension and borderline mania associated with Seo-Rae and Hae-Joon’s relationship. Park Chan-Wook has done a phenomenal job at executing this mystery romance film that follows the journey and consequences of following one’s desires.