Decision to Leave Ending Explained (Detailed Analysis)

By Marc Miller
Published: January 16, 2023

We discuss and provide an analysis of the ending of the film Decision to Leave, which will contain spoilers and major plot twists.

Yes, the premise of Decision to Leave is nothing new. A man meets a woman, a woman meets a man, and guess what? Love hurts. However, in the romance, a detective falls for the widow of the death he is investigating. Det. Jang Hae-jun (an outstanding Park Hae-il) is the lead on the case. His team is looking into the death of a retired immigration worker. What makes the case strange is the man is found dead at the edge of a mountain cliff that is nearly impossible to climb. Everything about this case screams accidental death. However, Hae-jun cannot shake his gut feeling that something is wrong with the death. Or he cannot stop thinking of the prime suspect in ways other than criminal.

The main suspect in his murder investigation is Song Seo-rae (a deadly effective Tang Wei). She is the beautiful and much younger wife of the deceased. There is something just off about her. She has physical bruises and scratches. Seo-rae is almost cold and too composed about her husband’s death, but if it wasn’t a happy marriage, then why should she cry? One piece of evidence that could be telling is that she has a tattoo marked with her husband’s initials. Why is that strange? On the surface, it’s an expression of love that is commonplace.

However, looking closely, this is done in the same fashion as when someone marks their own property. Hae-jun finds out she left China because she was charged with the murder of her mother. Why did she kill her? Because her mother was sick, the authorities didn’t see it the same way. However, he then finds a letter that indicates her husband committed suicide, thus, clearing her of the crime.

During Det. Jang Hae-jun’s investigation, simultaneously, she is planting some seeds of seduction to escape in case Hae-jun solves the case. His lovely obsession is a healthcare worker looking over an older adult woman. She figures out his investigation parallels his obsession with her, stalking, if you will. “Bring me the heart of that kind detective,” she says to herself when she knows he is watching her from afar. Since the case is closed, they begin to date, and it is revealed the detective suffers from crippling insomnia over cases in which he has a wall of evidence dedicated to her husband’s case. She manipulates him into burning it all. Unfortunately, Jang figures out later what happened.

Decision to Leave Ending Explained (Detailed Analysis)

Who is the killer in the movie Decision to Leave?

Song switched out the phones of the woman she cared for on the day of suicide. She took the older adult’s phone and placed hers in the room while she was sleeping and suffering from dementia. The device showed the older adult walking up 138 flights on the day of the murder, which means Song was climbing the mountain to kill her husband. She arrived before her abuser did. He reached the top, and Song pushed him, making it look like he had ended his life.

When Jang confronts Song, he is heartbroken, but she was expecting this. She is expecting him to arrest her, and she has been recording him to use as blackmail if the predicament ever comes up. Looking ever so satisfied as her plan was working, she is taken aback by his gesture and does something unexpected. Jang gives her a new cell phone to switch out and the evidence to discard. While he was discovering a love he did not think possible, it became shattered. While she felt that kind of love was never possible, her cynical heart was awoken, and she figured out what love is.

They meet 13 months later when Song is dating a trade and investment expert. (Think Mad Money’s, Jim Cramer). That man turns up dead, and Jang suspects Song of the murder. However, a man she worked for killed him, who goes by the name “Slappy,” which is evident if you watch the film. Why? Slappy’s mother invested her life savings in the expert’s opinion, and she lost it all. She triggers the action by slipping drugs to Slappy’s mother because he promises to kill Song’s husband when she dies. Jang figures this out and tracks his former lover through an application that Slappy put on her phone, which leads him to a beach.

How does the movie Decision to Leave end?

To save Jang from himself, she leaves a recording that she leaves him and the phone that recorded him admitting to the affair and destroying evidence. When he tracks her car to the beach, where is Song? She digs a large hole, almost a grave in the beach, with the dug-up sand near the head of the grave, right behind her. She then waits for the tide to come in. As she lies at the bottom, the water rushes in and brings the sand back to its original resting place, burying her alive.

What does the ending of Decision to Leave mean?

As a genuine gesture of Song’s love for Jang, she commits suicide. However, Song also tells him that “maybe she came back to Ipo to become one of his unresolved cases.” The kind that kept him up all night with insomnia. It was Song’s perfect murder that Jang will never be able to solve and ensure that this will haunt Jang for the rest of his life.

What did you think of the ending of the film Decision to Leave? Comment below.

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