Decision to Leave

A riveting mystery about an insomniac detective and the woman who could be bad.

I regret not reviewing the new South Korean opus “Decision to Leave” sooner, because like “Aftersun,” I wasn’t sure if I could squeeze it into my calendar. But I was finally given the opportunity, and I’m glad it did.

Filmmaker Park Chan-wook delivers a romance, a mystery, and a thriller-one that tests our senses, and introduces us to elements that aren’t often explored in movies. Or maybe they have been, and I’m still on my journey into the world of cinema. Seeing this near-masterpiece feels like a reflection on various lives, and how certain occupations can drive people to different conclusions.

In this case, we meet an insomniac detective in Busan, who is perfect for stakeouts, but can’t figure out why he can’t sleep. He then comes across the death of an emigration worker who fell from a mountain climbing accident, and he interviews his much younger wife, a nurse from China whose Korean is insufficient.

I don’t have insomnia, but I do often stay up late, as a curse from my great grandma, who would do chores at night and sleep in. I do try to keep my sleep schedule in tact-sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. This guy needs to figure out how to sleep better, and so do I.

The detective’s name is Hae-jun (Park Hae-il), and he has the young widow named Seo-rae (Tang Wei) on his mind. He’s attracted to her, up to the point of stalking her, dreaming about her, and even trying to go deeper inside her dead husband’s case.

Now, he has more questions. Was it an accident, a murder, or a suicide? Why can’t he sleep? And will it lead to depression or will it affect his job mentally. When his wife Jung-an (Lee Jung-hyun) asks him if he’s happy, he says he is. But she responds: “You need murder and violence in order to be happy.”

And if Seo-rae is the murderer, the results shatter our protagonist.

It can be a bit confusing at times, but I suppose it’s supposed to decease Hae-jun into thinking he’s solved the mysteries or needs to finish them. Every scene in this movie represents his condition and commitment to his job with a vibrant and gripping complexity that Chan-wook can specialize.

Park Hae-il is phenomenal in the lead role, as he adapts to his character’s life and troubles, and eases us into how he finds himself in dangerous territory. And Tang 1Wei also represents a femme fatale for this particular international cinema. Somehow, these two actors have an interesting chemistry that is based on stalking, interrogations, truth, and development. This would-be relationship proves to be dangerous.

“Decision to Leave” is something to behold. I’m sorry I’m a little late with this review, but I’m glad I was given the window of opportunity to see it. And if you want another recent entertaining South Korean drama, be on the look out for “Return to Seoul,” which is about a South Korean girl who was adopted and taken to France, which is why she speaks English and French and less on her native language. My review of that film will be posted soon, but I’m just saying that these two films are worthy of the international cinema.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

Categories: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

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