Park Chan-Wook's Decision To Leave Is The Funniest Sad Movie You'll See This Year [Fantastic Fest]

After an extremely painfully awkward (and long) lead-in by Tim League, legendary director Park Chan-wook took the stage at Fantastic Fest 2022 to introduce his new film, "Decision to Leave." Director Park told us that one thing we should know about his latest is that it might be his funniest film yet. He added that people who watch his movies often don't realize they're supposed to be funny, or at the very least miss the humor. He concluded that he hoped we would laugh at the funny parts.

Mission accomplished: the audience I was with cracked up all throughout "Decision to Leave," me included. And yet ... this is an odd experience. Because "Decision to Leave" is also one of the year's saddest films. I won't go into full-blown spoilers here, but just know that Park's newest goes to some heartbreaking places throughout its 138-minute runtime. But the laughs keep coming, as Park leans into absurdity to tell the Hitchcockian story of a detective who becomes romantically obsessed with a murder suspect. 

Expensive sushi and mysterious deaths

In "Decision to Leave," Korean detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) is investigating the death of a rock climber who fell off a mountain. This scenario presents one of the many, many touches of humor indicating things to come. First, there's talk of how the man fell to his death, with a dryly funny description of how he bumped into one rock face after another on the way down until he smashed into the earth. Then, Hae-jun insists on scaling the mountain with a pulley device, complete with his partner (Go Kyung-pyo) hanging off his back like a backpack. Hae-jun insists he wants to see how the man climbed the mountain, to which his partner dryly asks if they're going to fall down the mountain to see what that was like, too. At the same time, Park is giving us clues to the real nature of the film, ending this funny scene with shots of the dead man laying with eyes wide open as ants crawl across his eyeballs. 

The death appears to be an accident, but suspicion falls on the dead man's young widow, a Chinese woman named Seo-rae (the absolutely stunning Tang Wei). Hae-jun becomes obsessed with this woman and begins spying on her during the investigation. This is questionable enough, but you also need to consider that Hae-jun is married. His wife is constantly pushing quack remedies and supplements on her husband to help with his health (he suffers from insomnia) and their sex life. And the entire time, Hae-jun grows more and more enamored with Seo-rae, even buying her outrageously expensive sushi during interrogations, raising the eyebrows of his fellow cops. 

And then, the sadness

The first hour and a half (maybe longer) of "Decision to Leave" packs in the comedy while growing increasingly unsettling and heartbreaking. And then, Park decides to pick up a cartoon mallet with the word SADNESS printed on it in block letters and smash us over the friggin head. I suppose someone could argue this is a cheat; a drastic shift in tone. And yet, it's not. The sadness remains cooked into "Decision to Leave," it just takes a little while to unleash it in full force.

Until then, you'll find yourself laughing your ass off as Park and co-writer Jeong Seo-kyeong give us a wealth of funny moments that only make "Decision to Leave" all the more endearing. You should expect to laugh, a lot. And then you should expect to cry your eyes out, because, like life, sooner or later, the big sad comes sneaking in. You can't escape it. You can just stave it off for a little while with expensive sushi.