Review: Park Chan-wook’s thrilling mystery ‘Decision to Leave’ is noir at its most nourishing
The first thing that’s interesting about Shin Yeong-sil’s Park Chan-wook’s recent film Decision to Leave is its premise: Why do people leave their lives, if not for a good reason?
Park’s decision to leave his wife of 17 years in order to run away with a woman, Kim Hye-ran, in his early 20s, is presented as his personal story, yet it’s also a mystery, of sorts. It’s all about a single day in his life that has led him to a “decision that no one has ever made.”
The question of how he decides to leave is only part of the film, which also focuses on a few other people’s lives as they relate to such decisions. We learn, among other things, that his best friend, who had also left his wife of 18 years in order to be with another woman, Kim Mi-young, is still in love with his former wife. And we even get a chance to see Mi-young and Hye-ran as they go to pick his car up for his flight home after the movie’s conclusion.
Though I saw Park’s film on the last day of the Berlinale (the festival that houses Park), it feels like he’s made a film that is just beginning to resonate with audiences. While some critics have found Park’s new film to be “harsh and cynical,” I think Decision to Leave is more beautiful and more human than any of Park’s previous films. Perhaps a great surprise, Park’s movie is also one that leaves audiences satisfied.
Of course, it’s Park who is at the helm of Decision to Leave, while Kim Ki-hyun (who also co-wrote the film with Park) is the young man who decides to leave. And although it doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to see Kim as the man who leaves his wife, we know that he’s played by Ha Jung-woo, who has been mostly silent in his roles since the making of his film.
But even while we’re reminded that these men are the same age, it’