Whether a goodbye is merely temporary or for life, it can be one of the hardest things we ever have to do. Based on a true story, “The Farewell” is all about this idea of saying goodbye, while simultaneously trying to navigate around it; everyone wants to say goodbye to their loved one without her knowing it is a goodbye.
Directed by Lulu Wang, “The Farewell” is a dramatic comedy that tells the story of a Chinese family that has to keep a massive secret from their matriarch, Nai Nai. Billi, born in China but raised in America, is struggling with her life and her schooling when she finds out that her grandmother, Nai Nai, has stage 4 lung cancer and has been given three months to live. Although Billi wants to say goodbye to her grandmother, Nai Nai has no idea that she is dying; her family has come together to keep this terrible news from her to avoid making her upset. Wanting to be with Nai Nai one last time, their family plans a fake wedding to provide an excuse for Billi to come back to China and see her grandmother. Under the guise of attending her cousin’s wedding, Billi must keep her composure, so as to not alert her grandmother and betray her family’s trust, while also grappling with the guilt of hiding this secret from someone she loves so much.
Led by Awkwafina as Billi, “The Farewell” times addresses the cultural differences between China and America. Awkwafina’s performance perfectly connects the two as she often finds herself in limbo throughout the movie. She struggles to relate to her family and their traditional Chinese ways, while never completely feeling at home in America, where she was raised. In her breakout role in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Awkwafina was a supporting character and a source of enjoyable comedic relief. In “The Farewell,” it becomes apparent she has much more potential beyond being a comedian. She stands out in this film as the leading actress, who can be both funny and rather serious. I wouldn’t be surprised if her name circulates come awards season.
Grappling with themes of death, family, denial, and the cultural differences between the “east” and “west,” “The Farewell” juggles a lot of serious topics, but does so with grace and a light-hearted manner. This thoughtful blend of many different themes gives a pleasant and consistently warm feeling to amovie that could very well have been somber and morose.
Although it was a very good movie, it did have its faults. My main critique with the film was how it only seemed to progress on the same dimension. Essentially, the film lacked a sort of climax; there never really felt like a beginning, middle, or end to this movie, which at times made it feel as though it was dragging on.
All things considered, “The Farewell” is still a beautiful look into family dynamics and coming to terms with death. It is strikingly shot, and the actors in this film make the story feel authentic. Although it is not playing everywhere, this is definitely worth the watch when it hits digital release and on demand!
Cover Photo: IMDB