Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook, 2022, South Korea)

Decision to Leave
 is the latest film from Korean auteur Park Chan-wook. The film is his first following a six-year hiatus after his last film The Handmaiden. Some have called Decision a fusion of Chan-wook's more violent and extreme tendencies, with his more romantic side. And there is a melancholy and romantic longing at the core of Decision to Leave. As many have noted, the film owes a great debt to Hitchcock's Vertigo - that film is also the story of a man obsessed with a femme fatale. Chan-wook brings the film noir formula to a distinctly Korean setting - this time eschewing Seoul and instead showcasing Busan and later in the film Ipo. 

The core of the film is Jan Hae-Jung, an obsessive detective. He collects pictures of his unsolved cases on his walls. He leaves apart from his somewhat estranged wife, who works in the nuclear facility in Ipo. When a retired immigration official dies after falling off of a mountain, Jan identifies Seo-rae, the man's wife, as a suspect. Seo-rae is a Chinese immigrant, and her Chinese ancestry is something of an enigma to this viewer - to fully appreciate this film it would help to have a comprehensive understanding of both Mandarin and Korean.

The question of Seo-rae's guilt drives the narrative of the rest of the film forward. The film is highly stylized, and very influenced by our digital age - phones and text messages play a huge part throughout the film. While the film is hindered by some weaker characterizations, it makes up for this in its finale. This is easily one of the most gorgeous set pieces of 2022, and the film is well-deserving of its accolades for this alone. While Decision to Leave may not be Park Chan-wook's best film, it is a challenging piece.



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