Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave finds Park Chan-wook burrowing into, if not entirely new territory for South Korea’s preeminent crime filmmaker, then the foundations of his strongest aspects. The bifurcated telling of a detective’s (Park Hae-il) continuously shifting relationship with the wife (Tang Wei) of his latest investigation’s decedent, it operates almost polyrhythmically, letting the dead ends and often humorous tangents inherent to a bewildering murder case play out while remaining intently precise in its dealings with the beats from shot to shot. The visual schema constantly dazzles, employing bold diagonals, distorted and unexpected POVs, and superimpositions of digital information that playfully carries the film along its deliberately mirroring halves. But the true heart of the film rests in its potent riff on Vertigo, where identity is shaped along more ambiguous lines, and, above all, Tang’s performance, surely among the greatest by an actor not primarily speaking in their native language. Her capacity for simultaneous seeming total transparency and opacity molds the emotional tenors of the film, rendering it a tentative romance where the words — spoken in Korean or Mandarin — take on so many other unintended resonances. The entirely appropriate ending rings with such force because of the care and confidence placed in the proceedings, an exquisitely enigmatic dance which must end in the only way possible.