Decision to Leave (TIFF 2022) Review

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Decision to Leave: Exploring Park Chan-wook’s Restrained Brilliance

When it comes to the works of South Korean director Park Chan-wook, there is always a sense of anticipation and excitement. Known for his imaginative thrillers and revenge-fueled films like the Vengeance Trilogy, Park has established himself as one of the best filmmakers in the industry. After a six-year hiatus from feature films, Park returns with “Decision to Leave” (헤어질 결심), a captivating and symbolically rich piece that showcases his evolution as a storyteller.

A Shift in Narrative Approach

“Decision to Leave” marks a departure from Park’s signature violent storytelling style and instead brings forth a more restrained and straightforward narrative. While violence and roughness still exist within the film, they take on a secondary role compared to his previous works. This change allows Park to explore a more conventional storytelling approach, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, with a touch of 90s erotic thriller elements.

An Intriguing Tale of Obsession and Passion

The film revolves around Hae-joon, a restless and insomniac detective, who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation surrounding the death of an experienced mountain climber. As he delves deeper into the case, he develops an obsession with the prime suspect, Seo-rae, who becomes his muse and the subject of his investigation. Their relationship becomes a complex web of entanglements, passion, and fixation, fueled by brutality and tragedy.

Multilayered Symbolism and Visual Storytelling

One of Park’s strengths lies in his ability to weave intricate symbolism and visual storytelling into his films. “Decision to Leave” is no exception, with multiple layers of metaphors and hidden meanings scattered throughout the film. From the use of crows to the color of a dress, each detail contributes to the overall narrative and offers a deeper understanding upon closer analysis. This attention to detail and complex imagery add to the richness of the viewing experience.

A Blend of Genres and Themes

“Decision to Leave” expertly combines elements from different genres, seamlessly blending the dread-inducing detective story with the seduction of an erotic thriller. However, the central theme of the film remains longing. It explores the emotions of yearning, dependence, and love, presenting them as both attainable and unfeasible for the protagonist, Hae-joon. These themes resonate with audiences on a universal level, evoking a sense of empathy and introspection.

Exquisite Direction and Performances

Park Chan-wook’s directorial prowess shines through in “Decision to Leave”. Despite the shift in narrative style, he retains his ability to captivate the audience with crafty cuts, precise camera movements, and an acute sense of elegance. The performances of the cast, including Park Hae-il and Tang Wei, are exceptional, conveying the nuanced emotions and complexities of their characters. Their chemistry and talent elevate the film to new heights.

A Fresh Retelling of Familiar Stories

While “Decision to Leave” may follow a familiar narrative structure seen in classics like “Double Indemnity” and “The Big Sleep”, Park’s unique storytelling techniques and comedic elements bring a fresh perspective to the story. The film surprises viewers with unexpected humor and unexpected twists, showcasing Park’s ability to balance intensity with moments of levity.


Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” is a testament to the director’s growth and versatility. Despite operating in a more restrained narrative style, he manages to deliver a film that is both elegant and thought-provoking. The film’s multilayered symbolism, seamless blending of genres, and exceptional performances make it a standout addition to Park’s filmography. While it may not surpass the brilliance of “The Handmaiden”, “Decision to Leave” solidifies Park’s position as one of the most talented filmmakers of our time.


1. When was Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” released?

“Decision to Leave” was released at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Best Director award. It is now available to watch on digital platforms and on demand.

2. How does “Decision to Leave” differ from Park Chan-wook’s earlier works?

Unlike his earlier films known for their violence and aggression, “Decision to Leave” takes a more restrained approach in terms of narrative. While violence still exists within the film, it plays a secondary role compared to his previous works. It showcases Park’s growth as a filmmaker and his ability to explore different storytelling styles.

3. What are some of the prominent themes in “Decision to Leave”?

“Decision to Leave” delves into themes of obsession, passion, and dependence. It explores the complexities of human emotions and the longing for love, both of which can be both fulfilling and detrimental to the characters in the film.

4. How does Park Chan-wook incorporate symbolism into the film?

Park’s mastery lies in his ability to incorporate multilayered symbolism throughout the film. From the use of crows to the color of a dress, each detail contributes to the overall narrative and adds depth to the viewing experience. These subtle elements invite viewers to analyze and uncover hidden meanings.

5. Are there any upcoming screenings or events related to “Decision to Leave”?

“Decision to Leave” is scheduled for a one-night-only screening accompanied by a pre-recorded conversation between Park Chan-wook and Academy Award-winner Bong Joon Ho in UK cinemas on February 13, 2023. Stay tuned for any future announcements regarding additional screenings or events.