September 26, 2022

VIFF 2022 | Park Chan-wook Makes the 'Decision to Leave'

"Treat me like a suspect."
Park Hae-il Tang Wei Park Chan-wook | Decision to Leave | VIFF 2022
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2022—South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook investigates at least one possible mariticide in his latest neo-noir mystery wrapped in a bittersweet detective romance. At first, Decision to Leave seems more concerned with mood than dramatic turns yet there's a building sense of tension derived from its damaged characters.

When a married but otherwise ace police inspector (Park Hae-il) in Busan forms a dangerous connection with a widowed nurse (Chinese Lust, Caution star Tang Wei), who seems suspiciously unfazed after her abusive husband is found dead while mountain climbing alone, his insomnia turns to obsession. Things ping-pong back and forth from her calm yet mysterious demeanour to other peculiar details of the case. Needless to say, it's a strange meet-cute expressed through a dark sense of Korean humour.

Scripted by Park and frequent collaborator Jeong Seo-kyeong, the slow burn procedural has the usual melodramatic turns with strong echoes to Hitchcock's Vertigo. Its deliberate pace is refreshingly restrained through an intentional lack of overt misdirection. There are familiar noir-ish archetypes twisted to question character interactions and make the investigation more captivating.

Park Hae-il Park Chan-wook | Decision to Leave | VIFF 2022
CJ Entertainment / Mongrel Media
Kim Ji-yong's lush cinematography makes the unremarkable backdrops of non-descript office spaces and stage-like mountaintops stand out on screen through clever tricks to surreally visualize the various interrogations and detective work. Despite the expected convoluted circumstances, the stylish reenactments bring us along for the twisty ride and thrilling climax.

Park's mastery of tension and suspense fold Decision to Leave's crime thriller into a dangerously romantic drama about the peculiarities of sudden and strong attraction. It's a rather twisted forbidden love story about obsession and longing seen through noir film genre tropes that heighten its forlorn characters.

Decision to Leave screens at the 2022 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations series at The Centre for Performing Arts on September 30th and October 6th.


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