Heojil kyolshim [Decision to Leave] (2022)

Heojil kyolshim
Director: Park Chan-wook
Writer: Park Chan-wook, Chung Seo-kyung
Cast: Park Hae-il, Tang Wei, Lee Jung-hyun, Go Kyung-Pyo, Shin-Young Kim, Jung Young Sook, Seung-mok Yoo, Teo Yoo, Jeong Min Park, Seo Hyun-woo
Seen on: 20.2.2023

Content Note: misogyny

Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is a police office, called to the scene of a death. It is unclear whether it was an accident, suicide or murder, and Hae-joon wants to be sure. He interviews the dead man’s wife Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei), Hae-joon’s suspicion rises. At the same time, he becomes deeply intrigued with Seo-rae in a less professional fashion.

I am not a huge fan of crime movies, especially when they tend in the direction of film noir, as is the case here. But Park Chan-wook is an amazing director, so of course I had to watch the film. Unfortunately, it didn’t work one bit for me.

The film poster showing Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) and Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei) sitting in the back of a car. He seems to be asleep, she is looking out the window. Their hands are resting between them, their pinkies touching.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautifully crafted film, including some nice symbolism, stunning cinematography and fantastic acting, especially from the two leads. I am not saying this is a bad film. It’s just too much of a classic story for me, especially considering how Park Chan-wook has continuously subverted genre expectations, or at least made them feel new and exciting in his previous works like The Handmaiden, Stoker or Oldboy.

But here – this is too much of the same old and rather misogynistic story of the beautiful, mysterious femme fatale who basically destroys a good man as he becomes obsessed with her. This obsession is always her fault as she either tries to actively evoke it or at least uses it to her advantage. Admittedly, this film gets a bit more of a tragic touch and one could argue that Seo-rae is just as caught up as Hae-joon but it really doesn’t change much of the general structure of the character set-up. And that set-up just annoyed me.

Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) and Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei) in the interrogation room, looking at a phone.

This kept me from falling into the story that is often complex and probably made more for re-watching and discovering details than for understanding everything the first time round. That means, if you, like me, don’t get dragged into the story like Hae-joon, if you don’t get wrapped up in the mystery and atmosphere, what you’re left with is confusion – and a whole lot of boredom.

I checked out of the film pretty early, I’m sorry to say. I wish it had been different, but to me just lacked the sense of urgency that Park Chan-wook usually transports in each of its film. It just felt a little tired.

Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) in a car, holding binoculars.

Summarizing: I’d rather turn to Park Chan-wook’s older stuff again.

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