Four stars for Decision to Leave

Still, Park was never going to be content with a slick genre movie, even one as enjoyable as this one. Just when the plot seems to be wrapping up, and the running time is approaching that of a standard film, the timeline jumps ahead a year, and a new mystery unfolds in a new setting. New characters are added to the cast, but old characters return, as Hae-joon comes to realise that his decision to leave his previous life might not have been his to make.

This disruptive structure isn’t exactly a departure for Park: The Handmaiden told the same story three times from three perspectives. The sudden time jump isn’t unheard-of in the genre, either. Hitchcock’s Vertigo, among other comparable films, stops and then starts again. But the device doesn’t work so well here. The first part of Decision to Leave is just too satisfying on its own, and the second part is just too separate, for them to complement each other. We don’t learn anything more about the characters, and our understanding of their earlier behaviour doesn’t really change. We’re basically watching an extended coda, a closing chapter that is almost as long as the rest of the book. As the plot thickens and the twists multiply, the viewer’s interest may begin to wane.

I shouldn’t complain, though, because by then Park has given us our money’s worth and more. Decision to Leave is a gleaming treat for anyone who likes to see policemen being bamboozled and befuddled by enigmatic women. If it isn’t quite as entertaining as his best films, it still beats the best films of most other directors.


Decision to Leave premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

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