“Don’t talk about our time that way.”Seo-rae
Park Chan-Wook’s early work sets a dauntingly high bar but The Handmaiden proved he is still capable of scaling those heights and surprising audiences. It has been a six year wait for another feature film, placing weighty expectations on the director’s new tale of a homicide detective who forms a connection with a victim’s wife. Laced with dark humour in its criminal investigations, Decision to Leave is really a neo-noir romantic drama. We know from the title that the leads are doomed to part, so the film is more about the journey. Its opening conceit, investigating the death of a lone climber who fell from a peak, provides an engaging mystery that is resolved around the halfway mark with a satisfying use of modern technology. A subsequent murder provides less intrigue, leading to a second half that frequently drags and an underwhelming conclusion. However, the filmmaking is exquisite throughout, the beautifully framed cinematography peppered with unusual angles and overhead shots. Fog, clarity and obscured vision are repeated motifs — Hae-jun’s application of eye-drops to soothe his insomnia-strained eyes when observing crime scenes and the literal fog in the seaside town of Ipo serve as visual metaphors for obfuscation of the truth and the difficulty in trusting that we can know a person right before us. Thematically, then, Park Chan-Wook is still able to impress even where the the story frustratingly misses its mark.