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Decision to Leave


Year: 2022 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Park Chan-wook 
Starring: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Go Kyung-Pyo  
An image from Decision to Leave

After a foray into television with The Little Drummer Girl, Park Chan-Wook returns to home turf for his first film since 2016’s The Handmaiden. And it continues in a similar tradition too; director Park started out with stomach-churning revenge flicks, the most notorious being Oldboy from 2003. With a distinctive black comic extravagance, and an amoral disregard for good taste to boot, these were cult hits two decades ago that helped to usher in a new wave of Korean cinema. But gradually, Park has shifted register in his career, towards lavishly produced and Gothic-inflected suspense tales; a delicacy that conceals equally transgressive desires.

The Handmaiden achieved this extraordinarily, with its engrossing narrative sleight-of-hand, and Decision to Leave looks set to do the same. It’s another romantic thriller, with flashes of old-school noir hiding in its shaded interiors. This influence is felt in the protagonist Hae-jun’s dedication to his work: he is a detective (Park Hae-il), whose “weekend marriage” already suggests a choice to prioritise cases over his wife. One such case is the death of a hiker, falling to his death on his favourite mountain spot, which sounds simple enough. But the complication comes in the form of the dead man’s beautiful wife Seo-rae (legendary Tang Wei) - of all the police stations in all the towns in all the world, she has to walk into his. As the two begin to grow close, his partner suspects Seo-rae as the woman behind her husband’s death, and Hae-jun’s allegiance becomes torn.

There remains a buzz around this film since it played at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received many positive reviews and a Best Director award for Park himself. Nods to Hitchcock - which are almost guaranteed to be made about any film which creates suspense - seem to be warranted here, with a detective plot that certainly recalls Vertigo. All in all, for a stylishly mounted and well performed picture, this seems to carry on a new direction for one of modern cinema’s most original voices; and, given the gleeful satisfaction of fans like me after The Handmaiden, so much the better for it.

Max King

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Screenings of this film:

2022/2023 Autumn Term (digital)