Cannes Review: Park Chan-wooks Decision To Leave

Detective Hae-joon investigating the death of a man who fell from a mountain top. When he meets the deceased man’s wife in Park Chan-wook’s latest film in competition at Cannes, Decision To Leave.  

It’s been six years since the director had a film at the festival withThe Handmaiden, which made a splash at the festival in 2016. Will Decision To Leave get the same unanimous applause? Well, that depends on if you like the whole movie or just parts of it. I am in the later category. Is it as strong as some of his other films? No, but the characters make taking the entire 2:18 minute ride through to the end worth it.  

Seo-rae (Tang Wei), is now a widow. Her husband tumbled off of cliff accidentally. Or did he? Hae-Joon starts to suspect her to be the killer. He has a reason, as her affect is flat when a woman should be grieving, right? This doesn’t stop Hae-joon because he begins to fall to the point of obsession.  Her quiet and mysterious demeanor is like an intoxicating to a man who is use to having all the answers. As the investigation drags on, Hae Joon’s life begins to unravel his stalkerish behavior becomes noticed by Seo-rae and she begins to play into it.

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He’s so enamored with her that he doesn’t realize he’s screwed up the whole investigation and can’t go forward with it without things looking suspicious. Even his detective partner calls him out on how he’s handling this case and showing favor to the suspect. To get free of her, he and his wife, (yes, he’s married), move to another location. But getting rid of her isn’t going to be easy. Where at first Seo-rae was just toying with the detective, she begins to feel the same way, but now he’s gone. The lengths we go to for love. It is hear the audience learns about about Seo-rae’s past, and how she got caught up in drama. The complex, subtle emotions that tie these two characters together is a noir mix of romance, and intrigue that doesn’t always mix during the entirety of the film. 

I honestly can’t seem to get my thoughts together on this. The first 80-minutes is tightly paced, sexy and smart. wook crafts and frames his characters in strategic ways that informs the audience of what’s going on inside their head, while injecting bits of sarcasm and humor to break up those serious moments. There is a sensuality in every move, and every glance. Wook even manages to fill a police interrogation with sexiness. The building blocks to discovering who the major players are, is laid bare so the audience can enjoy living with these characters. Hae-joon and Seo-rae are complete opposites but compliment one another.  Hae-joon is a straight-laced, by the book cop who loves his job, and she’s a bad girl femme fatale who attracts the wrong type of men. Going on this journey with these two is a wild ride. That is until the second half of the film approaches and things dives off a cliff (no pun intended).

Elements of the film that felt even, became disjointed. The film jumps all over the place, and exposition scenes have to remind viewers where they are in the timeline. The shooting style that once felt exciting, feels erratic at this point as the camera starts moving like a tennis ball at a Serena Williams tennis match–and the second major reveal is underwhelming. I refused to accept it, and refused to take it seriously (yes, even in the world of Park-Chan Wook). While his films tend to always go on for 30- minutes longer than they should, he still wraps it up in a satisfying way, but for Decision To Leave, the conclusion is emotionless and didn’t leave an impression on me.  

The women of the film are its most valuable asset, particularly actress Tang-Wei who is extraordinary. She appears demure on the outside but explodes with sex appeal without trying.

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