Decision to Leave

  • 06 Aug - 12 Aug, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Korean director Park Chan-wook was once the master of gonzo revenge violence but with the adaptation of the Sarah Waters novel The Handmaiden in 2016 he pivoted with flair to the elegantly designed suspense thriller. And it is in this spirit that he’s back with this sensational black-widow noir romance.

The setting is Busan where a cop called Hae-Joon is struggling with an unsolved murder case featuring a couple of known hoodlum suspects, one of whom resists arrest and gets a ferocious beating from Hae-Joon who then thoughtfully comments that this guy was not tough enough to be the villain he’s looking for. Hae-Joon is sort-of-happily married to Jung-an (Lee Jung-hyun), but he’s longing for the cigarettes she won’t let him smoke and is suffering from insomnia, which means that he takes surveillance and stake-out jobs because he can’t sleep anyway. Then a puzzling new case electrifies him. The smashed body of a climber is found at the foot of a well-known climbing rock. Did he fall? Did he take his own life? Or did someone push him?

On the man’s mobile phone, the police find sinister photos of a woman’s beaten and bruised body. And his beautiful wife, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), instantly captivates Hae-Joon with her dignity and reserve. She is a caregiver who is loved by the old people she tends to, and the Korean patriot in Hae-jun is moved by her personal story. Seo-rae has an alibi for the time of death, but as the circumstantial evidence mounts against her, Hae-Joon begins to fall deeply in love with this woman, who appears also to be falling for him, her protector.

Is Hae-Joon going to cover up for Seo-rae? Is she all that she appears to be? Well, audiences might think they broadly know the answers to both those questions, but the script by Park and Chung Seo-Kyung keeps you off-balance at every turn, periodically hitting you with new characters and fresh developments that you have to wait to understand. But each new scene will have you propped further forward on your seat. All in all, it’s a gorgeously and grippingly made picture and Tang Wei is magnificent.