Those accustomed to the perversity of Park's earlier films – Oldboy, The Handmaiden, et al – may be surprised at Decision to Leave's subtlety. While perverse in its own way, it contains none of the graphic sex or violence that one associates with Park's work. You'll either find its restraint refreshing or you'll feel slightly let down.
Park Hae-il stars as a skilled and obsessive police detective who's assigned to a case in which a 60-year-old Korean mountain climber is found dead at the base of a promontory. Evidence that he had abused his Chinese immigrant wife (Tang Wei) marks her as a suspect in his death, however unlikely it may be. In the grand tradition, the not-so-grief-stricken widow is alluring and mysterious, and it's not just the detective's professional interest that is piqued.
After an hour of film noir intrigue, everything is revealed and wrapped up halfway through the movie. And so you check your watch and realize that Park has a lot more story to tell – and so he does.
I dare not reveal any more, except to say that whatever twists unfold in Decision to Leave's second half, they aren't designed for shock value. Park is aiming for nothing more – or less – than a love story, or rather an examination of the meaning of love. As such, his original screenplay, cowritten by Chung Seo-Kyung, may be a bit hogwashy in the long run, but it is nonetheless heartfelt.
Decision to Leave owes a lot to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, in spirit if not in design, and the beguiling, inscrutable Tang Wei is perfectly cast. Park's mise en scène is playful in the film's first half, more grounded in its second. The film is melancholic and deliberately paced, but offers quiet rewards to the patient.