Review: “Decision to Leave”

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

*Spoiler-free Review*

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Philadelphia Film Festival screening of legendary director Park Chan-wook’s new film “Decision to Leave.” This new entry into Park’s filmography tells the story of a detective attempting to solve the murder of a businessperson and his widow that draws forth both his suspicion and affection. As the detective slowly falls in love with this suspect, her connections to the potential crime only deepen. This film draws upon various elements of Park’s stylized filmmaking such as fast paced hyper-violent action as well as complex interesting characters. In other aspects though, Park is attempting to tell a slow sensual story in which details are slowly revealed to the viewer—one in which the audience is rewarded for continuing to watch. Before delving into my review, I would be remiss to forget to mention that Park Chan-wook won the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for “Decision to Leave” and that the film will be South Korea’s entry for Best International Film at this year’s Academy Awards.


“Decision to Leave” offers viewers a spell-binding romance that should not feel as compelling as it is. The viewer is masterfully drawn in by Park and made to feel “shattered” along with its characters as the story slowly unravels. The relationship that blossoms between this married detective and the widowed suspect fundamentally is set up for failure and will breed toxicity, yet the viewer is nevertheless enthralled by the development of their relationship in the first half of the movie. The midpoint of this screenplay then provides an important twist after which both characters find themselves spiraling because of their toxic relationship. This spiral then offers the viewer Hitchcockian suspense—that also feels somehow romantic—before resulting in a climax and finale that leaves you pondering for hours afterwards. This story of love, infatuation and longing thus leaves both main characters and the audience completely “shattered” by the end of its 138-minute runtime.

A Brief Cinematic Inquiry Into Online Relationships: Film in the Digital Age

A viral tweet in recent weeks had pointed out how many modern films do not utilize social media or cell phones in storytelling effectively, and many people in response highlighted “Decision to Leave” as a good example of a movie that does. Technology holds a pivotal role in this screenplay as the story continuously progresses forward through the use of smartphones. Within this modern romance-noir film, it is necessary for a smartphone to track a person’s steps all day. Also, voice recordings, another attribute of cell phones, are pivotal to Park’s newest film as—without spoiling any important plot point—recordings of conversations on the phone affect the crux of this movie. The viewer is also able to see different dimensions of these characters and their relationship as they can share text messages and continue to communicate while not exactly together in the same location. Not many movies can effectively convey how computers and technology have changed the nature of love and relationships between people, but “Decision to Leave” effectively highlights its profound modern-day impact.

Live and Die by the Edit

Editing holds a profound effect on the success and coherence of a movie, as film editing is an art form inherently connected to cinema and motion pictures. It can elevate a viewing experience and how one understands the moving pictures to new dizzying heights. At the same time, a lazy or messy edit of a film can single-handedly ruin that movie and make a film unviewable. Therefore, it is so important to discuss the editing of “Decision to Leave,” because it is simply so exciting and captivating. This film has likely the best editing I have had the pleasure of seeing this year—even beating out the wonderfully fast-paced and chaotic editing in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” One scene depicting a police chase across rooftops was edited so perfectly to affect the viewer that I audibly gasped in the theater—which I usually do not do. While the Academy will likely only recognize American films in Best Editing category, one could only hope some recognition is given to Kim Sang-bum whose work is incredible in this film.

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