Woman walking and looking behind her

From a mountain peak in South Korea, Soo-wan (Go Kyung-Pyo), a businessman, plummets to his death. Did he jump, or was he pushed? When detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) arrives on the scene, he begins to suspect the dead man’s wife Seo-rae (Tang Wei) may know more than she initially lets on. But as he digs deeper into the investigation, Hae-joon finds himself trapped in a web of deception and desire, proving that the darkest mysteries lurk inside the human heart.

Set against a contrasting backdrop of mountains and seas, "Decision To Leave" captures the tension of a police investigation while simultaneously being focused on the changing psychology of a man and a woman. The film begins with the detective Hae-joon investigating the death of a man who fell from a mountaintop. The character is similar to the police character Martin Beck from the Swedish detective novel series.

When he meets the deceased man’s wife Seo-rae, he starts to suspect her at the same time that he begins feeling an attraction to her. The wife of the man who dies on the mountain, although she's Chinese, had a maternal grandfather who was a Korean independence fighter, and she's proud of her family’s history and her grandfather. When her husband who loved climbing dies on the mountain, leaving her alone, she comes across the polite and clean detective Hae-joon who's in charge of her husband’s case. During the course of the investigation, she feels she's being considered a suspect. Even so, she maintains her usual upright posture and speaks boldly to Hae-joon in her Korean that's awkward, but which expresses her intentions clearly.

Amidst the rising tension of the crime investigation, the film delicately captures the emotions of two characters who feel a special curiosity and unexpected affinity for each other, providing an intriguing mix of suspense and romance. In particular, the unreadable words and actions by Seo-rae make her tantalizingly hard to read, not only for Hae-joon but for the viewer as well, raising dramatic tension.

As the location of the story shifts from the mountain to the sea, as their developing relationship is torn between suspicion and attraction, and as the investigation slowly reveals more details about the past, the complex, subtle emotions that tie these two characters together will leave an unforgettable impression on viewers. The film follows the emotional trajectory of two characters: the wife of the deceased man, and the detective who becomes fascinated by her. Seo-rae, who lost her husband in a sudden accident, does not show any signs of grief or agitation. The police start to investigate her as a suspect, but she never loses her upright and imposing attitude, making the audience curious whether she might really be the culprit.

She does not hesitate in her exchanges with Hae-joon, even though he suspects her. And despite her limited Korean skills, her unexpected expressions and answers stymie those who question her. Seo-rae can knock her opponent off guard without ever losing her composure, making it impossible to ever know what's truth, what she's truly feeling, and who she really is. Meanwhile, Hae-joon, from the moment he first sets eyes on Seo-rae, feels a subtle interest stirring in him even as his instincts as a detective tell him to suspect her. Having been recognized for his abilities and named team leader at the violent crimes division, Hae-joon stands out from other detective characters in the police procedural genre with his neatly dressed look, clean personality, and polite manner of interacting with others. A person who has never felt disturbance in the slightest, he begins to change in unexpected ways after meeting Seo-rae. Having often suffered from insomnia, he's finally able to sleep deeply.

"Decision To Leave" focuses on facial expressions and eyelines to better capture the true face of the two character's emotions. With bold zooming in and zooming out to visualize the character's imagination, and unusual perspective shots that capture the sense of watching the relationship develop between the characters. In particular, such as the houses belonging to Seo-rae and Hae-joon, or the police station and interrogation rooms with their differentiated structure.

Things will not work out between them. But when they express their intention in this resolute way, from an outside perspective it doesn’t feel very convincing. They may want and agree to separate, but given that deep inside their hearts they don’t really want to part, it’s a title that suggests they won’t be able to leave each other. To Seo-rae, who has always thought of herself as being unhappy, Hae-joon is like a precious gift. She must have been taken with surprise to think, For Hae-joon, Seo-rae is like the waves on the sea. Sometimes she's calm, sometimes violent, sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes she wraps you in her embrace, but it’s always changeable. She’s a very attractive character.

The always proud and faithful detective Hae-joon is so capable that he becomes the youngest officer ever to rise to the position of Inspector. He always dresses neatly, cares about cleanliness, and has a polite, kind personality, but above all, he's a person who sincerely devotes himself to catching criminals. He records all details at the scene of a crime on his smartwatch, and routinely performs late-night duty because of his insomnia. He depicts a character who departs significantly from the familiar conventions of the police procedural genre. It’s to this person that Seo-rae approaches so boldly with strong curiosity. The subtle and tense feelings that emerge between these two people, which having begun as the relationship between a detective and a suspect cannot easily reveal it's true nature, will leave an unforgettable impression on the audience.

With nods toward classic Hollywood and Hitchcok’s "Vertigo," the film infuses with ingenuity and a knife-edge precision that truly cannot be matched. A blend of investigative drama, "Decision To Leave" eschews the shocking breaking of taboos in which subtle emotional tremors coexist with pulsating inner waves. "Decision To Leave" is a seductive romantic thriller that takes a renowned stylistic flair to dizzying new heights. There's not much violence, nudity or sexual content. The film’s message is expressed in a subtle way. Like the sand is soaked by the waves. Because from a genre perspective it’s a romance. There are many shots in the film that are technically unconventional and physically impossible. With its genre mix of police procedural, and its intriguing characters, the sensual mise-en-scène, "Decision To Leave" is at once the most classic and most original film of 2022.


Opens Fri, Oct 28 at Gateway Film Center