Decision to Leave review: An achingly romantic noir thriller

With its lush units and perpetually probing digital camera, Decision to Leave seems to be and strikes like another Park Chan-wook movie, nevertheless it reverberates with the identical untempered ardour current in Golden Age noirs like In a Lonely Place and Double Indemnity. Unlike these two movies, although, which middle their tales round a hot-tempered screenwriter and naïve insurance coverage salesman, respectively, Decision to Leave follows one other widespread noir archetype: the lovelorn detective (performed right here by Park Hae-il).

In the movie’s opening moments, Hae-jun, the detective in query, lands a case involving the mysterious loss of life of a leisure rock climber. The case, in typical noir vogue, leads to Hae-jun crossing paths with Seo-rae (a spellbinding Tang Wei), his sufferer’s beautiful however eccentric widow. Perturbed by how disinterested she is in unpacking her abusive husband’s loss of life, Hae-jun begins to tail and spy on Seo-rae, unaware that doing so will solely additional intensify his attraction to her. As far as noir plots go, that is about as acquainted because it will get. With its nods to Hitchcock and calmly self-aware angle, Decision to Leave makes it clear that it doesn’t thoughts treading the identical narrative terrain as so most of the noir classics which have come earlier than it, both.

But if Decision to Leave lacks the identical narrative invention as, say, The Handmaiden or Oldboy, it makes up for it with its grand sense of romance and acute understanding of affection’s disorienting results. The movie is, in some ways, a pure match for a director like Park, whose consideration to element and obsession with self-destruction, makes him uniquely well-equipped to deal with Decision to Leave’s noir love story. At least, it’s arduous to consider one other director who would have thought to stage an interrogation scene as an off-the-cuff dinner date.

Courtesy of MUBI

Before it will get to the romantic, swooning rhythm of its second and third acts, Decision to Leave begins on a frenetic, purposefully chaotic observe. Throughout its first 20 minutes, the movie zips and zags via the required exposition of its plot, committing to a fast tempo and uneven editorial model that miraculously manages to maintain you in your again foot with out unnecessarily obfuscating the small print of Hae-jun’s case. Information, nonetheless, comes so quickly and rapidly that it will probably, at instances, be tough to maintain observe of the whole lot that’s taking place on-screen.

Once Tang Wei’s Seo-rae turns into the main focus of Hae-jun’s consideration, although, the aim of Decision to Leave’s initially chaotic rhythm turns into clear. The extra that Park Hae-il’s sleep-deprived detective turns into consumed with the loss of life of Seo-rae’s husband, the narrower his — and the movie’s — focus turns into. Consequently, by the point he’s begun to actually think about himself in Seo-rae’s house throughout his quiet, lonely stakeouts, we’ve already begun to perceive that the frantic, virtually slapstick model of Decision to Leave’s first act is nothing greater than a mirrored image of its lead detective’s obsessive, endlessly inquisitive thoughts.

Ultimately, it’s Seo-rae that brings a way of calm to Hae-jun’s life and, subsequently, the movie that has been constructed round him. There aren’t any moments in Decision to Leave which might be as nonetheless or quiet as when Seo-rae gently walks Hae-jun via the phases of falling asleep or kisses him on the darkened slopes of a snowy mountain. Her capability to carry Hae-jun’s overwhelming life to a crucial halt makes the facility of their bond surprisingly palpably, and it helps the movie itself construct an unconscious however intense emotional funding of their relationship, which it then weaponizes to devastating impact in its closing third.

Tang Wei stands in front of intricate wallpaper in Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave.
Courtesy of MUBI

In Decision to Leave, Park additionally leaves the early Twentieth-century setting of The Handmaiden behind in favor of creating a strikingly up to date noir. Here, Seo-rae and Hae-jun not solely bond over sushi dinners and conversations by the ocean, however via their awkward but endearing interactions with fashionable expertise. Seo-rae, who’s a Chinese immigrant, continuously makes use of her cellphone’s translator app to converse Korean for her. Hae-jun, in the meantime, information his stakeout notes as voice memos saved on his Apple Watch, a truth which solely opens one other door for him and Seo-rae to additional indulge of their observations of one another.

Through their respective voice memos and cellphone translations, director Park each highlights the moments of miscommunication that sit on the very basis of Hae-jun and Seo-rae’s relationship and makes use of them to carry the 2 nearer collectively. As is the case in each detective-suspect relationship, it’s much less the will to perceive one another and extra the information that they by no means actually will that attracts Hae-jun and Seo-rae collectively. The moments once they share AirPods to hear to Hae-jun’s stakeout observations or stare into one another’s eyes whereas a robotic voice interprets their phrases for them, subsequently, grow to be Decision to Leave’s most intimate and sensual. They are the situations, at the very least, during which Hae-jun and Seo-rae’s romantic needs are laid completely naked.

As Seo-rae, Tang Wei additionally offers one of many yr’s finest performances, bringing an open-hearted vulnerability and surprisingly childlike sense of curiosity to Decision to Leave’s central homicide suspect. The sense of freedom that Seo-rae feels now that her abusive husband is lifeless is made evident with each playful eye roll and endearingly nervous fidget that Wei offers. When Decision to Leave ultimately turns her relationship with Hae-jun the wrong way up, Wei’s commanding presence can also be highly effective sufficient to make you rethink which of the movie’s two leads was truly the observer all alongside.

Park Hae-il passes a note to Tang Wei in Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave.
Courtesy of MUBI

Decision to Leave’s preoccupation with the character of statement, particularly when it comes to love, is finally what permits it to mix cinema’s romance and detective genres collectively so seamlessly. The movie’s script, which was co-written by Park and Jeong Seo-kyeong, understands that most of the questions a detective is used to asking their suspect can, in sure situations, be strikingly comparable to people who one lover may ask one other. In the case of Decision to Leave, the questions that Hae-jun asks Seo-rae rapidly grow to be much less rooted in his homicide case and extra within the unsure nature of their highly effective affair.

The movie’s third act sees Hae-jun completely relocate to the small village of Ipo solely to ultimately uncover that Seo-rae has adopted him there. During their reunion in an Ipo fish market, Seo-rae tells Hae-jun’s spouse (Lee Jung-hyun) that she got here to the village for the climate. Hae-jun’s spouse responds by noting that “nobody comes to Ipo for the fog. They go away due to it.” Later, after one other crime brings Hae-jun and Seo-rae collectively, the previous follows the latter out to the sting of a rocky cliff solely to furiously ask, “Is this why you got here to Ipo?” Given the character of the movie’s third-act crime, it’s a sound query. But, like so most of the questions which might be hurled in Decision to Leave, the reply Hae-jun seeks has little to do with what he’s requested.

It’s the type of oblique query that one solely asks when they’re so in love that they’re afraid to verbalize their precise considerations. A detective ought to, arguably, be above such points, however love, like fog, has a means of descending so deceptively slowly that you just don’t understand you’re misplaced in it till it’s already surrounded you. The magic of Decision to Leave is in the way it replicates that have by so totally entertaining and disorienting you that you just don’t understand how invested you’ve grow to be in its twisted love story till you end up misplaced within the haze of its achingly romantic closing act.

Whether or not that’s the type of expertise followers of Park Chan-wook’s work will go into Decision to Leave anticipating is finally of little consequence. After all, Hae-jun and Seo-rae might not have initially sought one another out for love, however nobody comes to Ipo for the fog.

Decision to Leave hits theaters within the U.S. on Friday, October 14.

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