Flix at :48: 'Decision to Leave' is the perfect balance of crime-mystery and precarious love story
"Decision to Leave" is an intriguing South Korean drama that was released in its home country in June 2022, but has been playing in select U.S. theaters for the past month-and-a-half.
When a police detective investigates the death of an experienced rock climber, his research takes unexpected directions when he becomes fascinated with the dead man's surviving wife.
Spoken entirely in Korean and Chinese, "Decision to Leave" is one half crime-mystery and one half precarious love story, fitting in a genre similar to "Sea of Love" (1989) or "Double Indemnity" (1944). Co-writer and director Park Chan-wook, who is most famous for his 2003 revenge film "Oldboy", is great at exploring his own view of contemporary neo-noir.
This neo-noir sense is not hammered home through shadowy cinematography, hidden guns, and ample cigarette smoke. Instead, the neo-noir sense is delicately achieved by its dreamily cryptic dialogue and its growing vibe of dangerously erotic tension. And this eroticism is so psychological (without passionate sex, shower scenes, or even cleavage) that the film covertly nestles its way into your head. It's this psychological focus that makes "Decision to Leave" so memorable and unpredictable.
At first, I felt this film was almost zany in its jarring cuts and rapid zooms, using such dynamic camera work to create fun kinetic energy. But that zaniness fades away after the first 30 or 40 minutes to something more subtle as desires grow deeper and the detective's investigation gets closer to the truth.
In a year when so many American films have famously failed to reach box office glory, filmmakers (and film lovers) need only look to South Korea for new ideas and new methods of cinematic storytelling. And I'm not just praising South Korea because of the heavily awarded 2019 film "Parasite". For film lovers to better appreciate this country's blossoming film presence, please also watch "Train to Busan" (2016), "A Taxi Driver" (2017), and "Burning" (2018).