Decision to Leave Explained: A Park Chan-wook 2022 Release

Decision to Leave is a 2022 South Korean romantic crime-investigation film produced, co-written, and directed by Park Chan-wook. It stars Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, who play the characters Song Seo-rae and Detective Jang Hae-jun. The movie portrays a twisted and complicated relationship between the detective and the suspects, merging themes of duty and love.

The Conflict between Duty and Love – Decision to Leave

Seo-rae is the prime suspect in the murder case of her husband, who died in a hiking accident. Her brisk demeanor and apathy toward her husband (who physically abused her) raise suspicion among the detectives. To gather evidence against Seo-rae, Jang Hae-jun starts to shadow her. He starts to feel intrigued by her as he watches her. He begins to pay attention to some of her quirks and behaviors, finding them endearing.

Decision to Leave explores romantic themes
romantic themes explored in Decision to Leave

Soon after, he is preparing meals for her and tends to her needs. They learn to appreciate one another’s company after spending a significant amount of time together. Hae-jun is smitten by her, as evidenced by a montage of the two in a shrine. She helps him with his insomnia by burning down images of all the solved cases he keeps.

Just as their relationship is solidifying, Hae-jun takes to caring for one of Seo-rae‘s patients. This is when Hae-jun learns that Seo-rae had been lying to him the entire time. She had switched her phone with that of the patient. He begins to doubt his abilities as a detective. She did, after all, kill her husband. He confronts her and chooses not to speak to her again. Hae-jun faces the conflict between saving the integrity of his job and his connection with Seo-rae. Although begrudgingly, he chooses the latter, telling her to destroy the evidence.

“Throw that phone in the sea. Someplace deep where no one can find it.”

Jang Hae-jun

Tang Wei's and Park Hae-il's natural on-screen chemistry
Tang Wei’s and Park Hae-ils natural on-screen chemistry

Decision to Leave’s tragically twisted ending

Hae-jun and Seo-rae are reunited in Ipo (where Hae-jun has moved in with his wife) after a time gap of more than a year, where Seo-rae is with her husband. The murder of Seo-rae’s husband precedes this. Hae-jun warns her that to prove her innocence, she will require an alibi set in stone. Chinese gangster who had ties to her husband is the killer. The detective does not accept this. He is convinced Seo-rae is responsible for the murder. When her husband’s phone is recovered from the water, he learns that she indirectly killed him by setting off the gangster.

Seo-rae's final moments
Seo-rae’s final moments

Her husband had found audio clips of Seo-rae and Hae-jun, which he threatened to use to expose them. She commits these crimes to protect him from slander. Moved, he calls Song (who speaks in a cryptic language) and searches for her, tracking her location to the seaside. Seo-rae has already buried herself in the sand before his arrival. During the phone call, she says – “The moment you told me you loved me was when your love had to end!” referring to months back when he cut ties with her. This was her last confession to him, hinting at her “Decision to Leave”! Hae-jun is left with “an unresolved case” owing to her unexplained disappearance, just as she wished for.

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