“It’s been too long since we’ve all been together like this. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.”
The Farewell tells the story of Billi, a young Asian-American woman, as she travels to China to spend time with her ailing grandmother who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, as a custom in China, the family has decided not to tell the grandmother about her illness, rather have the family gather for a surprise/fake wedding, in an effort to spend time with her in her final days. I must say, as we include more ethnicities into our filmmaking, The Farewell enters the field as one of the best films of 2019.
Based on a true story, The Farewell perfectly blends both American and Asian cultures. Throughout the film, you feel like a fly on the wall as you watch these characters approach the situation of seeing their loved one for the last time. But more importantly, how Billi, who has been raised in the United States, struggles to come to terms of not telling her grandmother that she is dying. I can’t tell you how genuine these characters are, which make for an even more impactful film. You feel as though this is an actual family who has gathered together and talks about situations that can plague the average person. Awkwafina, who plays Billie, best known for supporting parts in Crazy Rich Asians or Ocean’s 8, is simply incredible. There’s strength, vulnerability, sadness, and love that Billi goes through. Awkwafina does all this without any uncomfortable quirks in her performance. If she is not nominated for an award this year, I would be absolutely shocked! Besides Awkwafina, there are no big name actors or faces that you’d recognize. But somehow writer and director, Lulu Wang, was able to get some of the most amazing performances of the year.
The Farewell is a simplistic film that is executed in such a beautiful way. At Wang’s direction, this is everything that a film should be. It can be aesthetically beautiful and have moments where the only noise is that of the score, or scenes where the family’s conversation takes up 15 minutes of screen time. But with that said, the film is never boring. This is not just a side project for Yang, who has personally dealt with said situation. You can see Wang’s own personal connection, and her utmost need to tell this story, show throughout the whole film. There were two scenes that emotionally crushed me. The ending being one of those scenes. To be honest, it still affects me when I think about it.
It would be wise to take some tissues when going to see The Farewell. With a perfect blend of drama and comedy, this is a film that stays with you long after you have watched it. The Farewell hits hard in a way that transcends race or language barriers, and provides a story that can so easily resonate with every human being.
Written and Directed by: Lulu Wang
Starring: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, and Shuzhen Zhao