the blurry profile of a man in front of a girl looking intensely at him
Courtesy CJ Entertainment

Decision to Leave abandons the brutality of Park Chan-wook’s signature style in favor of a restrained ruthlessness that, in the end, cuts deeper than pure violence. Hae-jun, a Busan detective played by Park Hae-il, is assigned to a peculiar crime scene––an experienced rock climber has plummeted to his death. During the first 30 minutes of the film, Decision to Leave offers the foundation or modus operandi of a conventional detective thriller, but then we meet Seo-rae, the unbothered widow of the fallen man played by Tang Wei. Suddenly, the conventional mystery plots are blurred by a familiar fog: a crush. 

Hae-jun immediately suspects foul play, with his eyes closely affixed on the mysterious widow. Despite Hae-jun’s keen sensibilities, fervent perfectionism, and eager professionalism, the detective’s intuitions fall aside as he loses his head over Seo-rae. Decision to Leave disrupts the trajectory of the detective thriller by casting aside the murder for an even more intoxicating premise: a forbidden love story. Distanced from his cold marriage and troubled by insomnia, Hae-jun’s judgments are consumed by a delirium mirroring this unsuspecting true romance. 

Decision to Leave is a subtle masterpiece from Park, braiding a heart-stirring tenderness into a murderous thriller. There is no logical reason to feel enticed by Hae-jun and Seo-rae’s romance, but there is undeniable and magnetic chemistry. Unbefitting of the crime, Park solicits our support. Hae-jun’s wife, played by Jung Yi-seo, claims he needs “violence and death to be happy.” He finds it, but the love he finds is vanishing, making for a finale that will leave you gutted. 138 min.

Gene Siskel Film Center