Park Chan-wook was last in Cannes in 2016 with The Handmaiden, a sumptuous and erotically charged film based on the popular Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith. This year he’s back on the Croisette with Decision to Leave, which again deals with crime, subterfuge and passion. If you thought The Handmaiden was convoluted, wait until you see this film.

Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is a detective in Busan. He is honest to a fault, happily married and highly respected: these are the holy trinity of attributes that need to be crushed during the course of this contemporary noir. Handily for the plot to be able to thicken, Hae-joon’s wife (Lee Jung-hyun) lives up in Ipo, the couple constantly analysing the statistics for long-distance relationships and working out ways to keep their marriage going. Hae-joon refuses to leave Busan for he craves the cases the big city offers.

Decision to LeaveWhen a man is found at the bottom of a mountain, it is up to Hae-joon and his sidekick (Go Kyung-pyo, who is sadly underused) to investigate. When the widow Seo-rae (Tang Wei) is called in for questioning, Hae-joon is immediately smitten. It transpires that Seo-rae is the victim of domestic abuse, her husband even branding her with the same initials he uses on his accessories. She displays no grief and even giggles at one point during the interrogation, which Hae-joon transforms into an intimate dinner date and sleepover. From then on, he is all over her like a rash, sleeping outside her home and photographing her covertly.

The film proceeds to follow the investigation as the poor detective falls for the femme fatale’s wiles. Tang Wei excels as the Chinese illegal immigrant who goes from one bad man to the next. Is she a murderess? Is she a psychopath? Or is she a victim of male violence and bad choices? She and Park Hae-il bounce nicely off each other and the scenes between them are playful and sexy with barely a kiss to be had.

The film is beautifully shot, whether on the streets of Busan or the beaches of Ipo, on mountain tops or in apartment buildings. One mountaintop scene in particular, with snow falling and the dust of ashes swirling, lit by a head torch, is just one such standout scene.

Decision to LeaveThe intricacies of the plot revolve around multiple smartphones, which are lost, stolen, broken, exchanged or drowned, their stories as convoluted and destructive as any of the characters’ own. They are essential for communication – Seo-rae often uses the translation app to speak to Hae-joon in Korean – and misinformation, and for much, much more besides.

Despite all those technological gizmos, this is a good old-fashioned noir with a love story at its centre. The unravelling of a good man and the complexities and frailties of human relationships are depicted here. Decision to Leave may not be a classic thriller like Oldboy and lacks the sensuousness of The Handmaiden but is very sympathetic to its lead characters. It is an accomplished and intelligent addition to this great director’s impressive filmography.