Drama Boasts Enthralling Lead Performances

Jan 10, 2023

Home Movie Reviews Decision To Leave Review: Drama Boasts Enthralling Lead Performances [Middleburg]

Tang Wei and Park Hae-il give mesmerizing performances and the tension that exists between their characters is elevated by their fabulous chemistry.

Park Hae-il and Tang Wei in Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave is a slow burn that requires patience, but the payoff is all the more rewarding for it. Director Park Chan-wook, who co-wrote the script with Jeong Seo-kyeong, weaves together a crime/detective mystery and an erotic thriller that will leave viewers stunned by the end. The film is slowly paced and takes on too much unnecessary baggage, but it is magnetic and well-told all the same. Tang Wei and Park Hae-il give mesmerizing performances and the tension that exists between their characters is elevated by their fabulous chemistry.

After a man falls to his death from a cliff, Detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is called to investigate what is presumed to be a potential homicide. The first suspect on the list is the man’s widow, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), and Hae-joon is convinced that she killed her husband. However, the married Hae-joon’s investigation is complicated by the fact that he begins to develop feelings for Seo-rae, following her around as she tends to her patients as a nurse, hanging around her home, and constantly bringing her in for questioning. As the pair’s infatuation with each other grows, Seo-rae becomes less of a suspect.

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Park Hae-il and Tang Wei in Decision to Leave

While the film is well-crafted overall, there are a lot of unnecessary subplots that it didn’t need to make its point. It turns the murder mystery portion into a box-within-a-box of connections that need a second watch to fully unpack. A bit more editing would have made for tighter writing and story progression without losing any of the film’s impact. What keeps the film afloat, even in its slower moments, is the intoxicating relationship between Seo-rae and Hae-joon. Tang Wei and Park Hae-il’s chemistry certainly intensifies the characters’ sexual tension, as well as why they are so drawn to each other. The actors’ performances are so rich and multi-faceted that audiences will feel the utter desperation and love between Seo-rae and Hae-joon right up until the very end.

Decision to Leave truly excels when it’s focused on its main characters, their attraction to one another, and the lengths they will go to be near the other. The film delves into their romance and how complicated their entanglement becomes. The script doesn’t question why they are so into each other, but it does showcase how this is a forbidden romance only they can feel the true power of. After all, who would buy that a detective would fall for a suspect in a homicide? The film banks on a viewer’s assumption of objectivity, which is what makes the pair’s relationship all the more hypnotic and intriguing the longer it goes on. To the outside world, theirs is a romance that makes little sense, but they’re also the only people who understand each other. It turns their every interaction into an intense, sizzling, and layered dynamic, all while audiences hold their breath, wondering whether they will ever get caught, or if their forbidden love story will carry on in all its strange and beautiful toxicity.

Park Hei-il and Tang Wei in Decision to Leave

Because of its arduous pacing and not-so-straightforward mystery, Park’s film never reaches the urgent levels it needs to fully electrify. That said, the combination of fiery infatuation, an intriguing mystery, and a few thrills make for an exhilarating and satisfying story that is full of twists and great performances. Ultimately, Decision to Leave has the kind of sizzling slow burn that fully and exquisitely pays off by the end, leaving audiences with plenty to think about regarding the film’s central relationship.

Next: Living Review: Bill Nighy Gets Vulnerable In Touching Adaptation [Middleburg]

Decision to Leave played during the 2022 Middleburg Film Festival. The film releases in nationwide theaters October 21. It is 138 minutes long and is not rated.

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