THE FAREWELL – A Review by John Strange
Every group of individuals on this planet is governed by different sets of cultural norms, ways of doing things. Sometimes this is demonstrated by how people greet others and sometimes it is how a family takes bad news about one of its members.
The Farewell is a semi-autobiographical tale by writer/director Lulu Wang. She tells us a story of how her family, some living in the United States and some still living in China, deal with the news that her grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), has cancer.
The family does not believe she has long to live but their culture does not believe that telling her of the diagnosis would be acceptable. They would rather she live in peaceful ignorance without the burden that the news would place on her shoulders.
This film follows the Chinese-American family (they have been in the states for many years) as they travel to China to a wedding that has been put together to explain why everyone is suddenly showing up. The elders from the States are dealing with this much like their relatives back home.
But their daughter, Billi (Awkwafina), is NOT dealing well with this decision. She is much more American in her beliefs as she has spent most of her life over here. She loves her Nai Nai so much, they talk by phone often.
This is a wonderful film about the love of a family willing to do whatever it takes to keep their grandmother in the dark concerning her condition. And the crisis of conscience Billi feels as she does her best to obey her parents.
Awkwafina does a wonderful job as Billi. Her portrayal of the young woman fighting her desire to tell her beloved grandmother the truth is excellent. In the Q&A with Lulu Wang following our screening, the director told us that her response to the producer who recommended the young rapper, her response was, “the rapper who sings ‘My Vag’”?
Following a meeting and a video audition, the young rapper was hired and the script was modified to better fit her and her language skills. For myself, I am glad she did. As she did with her roles in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, Awkwafina does an amazing job of portraying Billi.
Can’t tell you everything nor would I want to. The story is a wonderful window on a culture that most of us do not know much about. This film gets an ‘A” rating from me!
Directed by: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo
MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic material, brief language and some smoking)
Selig Rating: A
Runtime: 98 Min.
Movie Site: a24films.com/films/the-farewell
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.