I have no poker face, so I’ll say it upfront. Despite what the poster quoted “Most Romantic Movie of the Year”, I beg to differ. Not that Decision to Leave didn’t have a few moments of flickering heat or a spritz of emotion, Park Chan-wook’s written and directed film smacks more of Deep Water (though in this case shallow water, since the score count for sex and skin was 1 (and now you’ll know what your partner thinks about during sex to zero).
Basically this is a femme fatale deal, and as good as the leads are, they’re no Barbara Stanwyck nor Fred MacMurray or even Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone (credit to Lorenzo for this allusion). Though that’s not to say that the acting is not commendable: Park Hae-il is solid as the expert cop with an achilles heal for damsels in distress. The woman with the evil itch begging to be scratched is the pouty and perfect actress Tang Wei.
But the question remains: Is this what South Korea thinks is romantic? Perhaps a cultural difference. But before you judge me as too Anglo, I did speak with a kind Korean woman who also thought the film lacked spice.
So Miley, what else is good? (For you non rap kids, that’s a Nicki Minaj reference).
The cinematography by Kim Ji-Yong is spectacular…looking through a lens from the inside of a corpse to ants crawling on its eyeball…brilliant, likewise the Hitchockian stair chases! Many other shots from both the hiking/hiker’s advantage atop a peak to a snowy mountain scene (one of the few romantic scenes which provoked me to want to kiss someone on a snowy evening again) to a wave swept beach were beautiful to experience.
Most important thematically was the way he captured their parallel lives during his surveillance of her. When you do fall for someone, the vibration of togetherness is palpable even when you are not together and that sensation was well conveyed.
In the end, the screenplay is at fault here. Too complex and just implausible enough to take away from the entertainment value. While I appreciated the motif of ‘love is blind’ conveyed by placing eye drops in his eyes at every crime scene paired with dead bodies with eyes open, and the humor sprinkled in, I just didn’t feel for the characters or believe they had true romance or even hot lust between them. And while romance isn’t required to make a powerful film, lust has to be based on some commonality and since none was apparent (besides they were both bored, lost and confused in their lives?)I was not ramped up enough to invest in this type of story.