The teasingly ambiguous Decision to Leave is the primary Korean film I’ve seen that looks like a Pedro Almodóvar movie: languid, dreamy, stuffed with references to TV cleaning soap operas and gorgeously muted colours. More than that, it’s additionally a narrative of obsession wrapped in a homicide thriller that will be simply at residence alongside one thing like Broken Embraces. It’s opening this week at Alamo Drafthouse Denton, the place you may make the comparability or simply absorb one of many 12 months’s most tantalizing movies.
Insomniac, chain-smoking Det. Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) works murder instances in Busan, however his spouse (Jung Yi-seo) lives in a seaside city far-off, so that they solely see one another on weekends, which strains their marriage. That’s when Hae-joon takes on the case of Ki Do-soo (Yoo Seung-mok), a 60-year-old retired civil service employee who seems to have fallen to his demise whereas climbing a mountain nicknamed “Oil Peak” as a result of it’s that slippery. The man’s spouse Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei) is a a lot youthful Chinese immigrant who went by way of hell to attain South Korea. The police preserve discovering out shadier details about her, and he or she retains producing a lot exonerating proof that it begins to pressure credibility.
One distinction between this and Almodóvar is that Park is keen to put his detective in ridiculous conditions. There’s a farcical foot chase by way of the streets the place each the fugitive and the cops turn out to be exhausted operating up Busan’s steep hills. A gangster is comically named “Slappy” (Seo Hyun-woo) for the unfunny purpose that he likes to slap girls round as a result of punching them hurts his hand an excessive amount of. Hae-joon himself isn’t overly good at his job — he bungles one other suspect’s pursuit each which means, and when he stakes out Seo-rae’s residence, she finds his hiding place instantly. His incompetence makes for some leavening comedy and makes him a simple mark.
Gratifyingly, he’s not a complete fool. He uncovers sufficient in regards to the homicide sufferer for us to recognize the tremendous particulars: Ki Do-soo was a wife-beater who was taking bribes to let undocumented immigrants into the nation, appreciated tremendous whiskey and Gustav Mahler, and monogrammed all of his possessions, together with his spouse. The detective notes that Seo-rae’s Korean is old school as a result of she watches a number of interval cleaning soap operas to be taught the language. Hae-joon uncovers an unsettling clue when he appears to be like on the smartphone owned by an previous girl (Jung Young-sook) whom Seo-rae recurrently checks in on and finds that its proprietor climbed 138 flights of stairs on the day of the homicide, and there’s simply no means.
Time and once more, Park casts doubt on what we’re seeing. He repeatedly movies photographs like our two protagonists are taking a look at one another when actually they’re miles away, and when the detective imagines a state of affairs wherein Seo-rae may have dedicated the homicide, we see him on the mountain observing her taking the straightforward path up, beating her husband to the height, after which pushing him off as soon as he received there. The characters have a translation app that renders Seo-rae’s occasional Mandarin into Korean, however even it proves fallible. The romantic scenes between the couple are filmed in a method that’s delirious and in addition extra restrained than their equivalents in Korean cleaning soap operas. Eventually, Seo-rae concludes that Hae-joon’s love for her is borne of his obsession together with her, and that if he ever solves the case, his love for her will finish. With that, she chooses a means out that ends Decision to Leave on a chilling be aware.
Decision to Leave
Starring Park Hae-il and Tang Wei. Directed by Park Chan-wook. Written by Jeong Seo-kyeong and Park Chan-wook. Rated R.