A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Billi struggles with her family’s decision to keep grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time.
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There is something hesitant about the way Wang turns this beguiling family story into a film, an unwillingness to push too hard into potentially painful emotional territory, which also keeps the comedy in check.
Wang is unapologetic about the cultural specificity of her (true) story, yet it is this limited framework that ultimately makes The Farewell a vivid and endlessly relatable story of fractured identity in a globalized world.
Losing your grandmother (especially if you just have the one grandma left) is one of the most brutal things in life. Here the loss looms thoughout the movie and that's what makes it so suffocating and harsh. Awkwafina and Shuzhen Zhao both float with such a moving grace with a sound no louder than a falling Autumn leaf. Everything is directed ever so suavely managing beautifully the melodrama balance.*Hugs Nai Nai*<3
Incidentally heard the podcast recently and surprised given its innate humour that Wang chose to make the fiction more reserved. Attribute it to proximity then but I found this a touch staid, unwilling to expand in any surprising direction. The differences are interesting in theory and it's a thoughtful depiction of identity in limbo (lovingly composed too), sadly just never quite connected with it 2.5
Placid, possibly to a fault. Once the setup is in place, it develops few wrinkles and not much urgency; the second act does little with its characters except go in circles that widen far too slowly. But by the end, it chalks up a number of lovely observations about family, aging, culture gaps, etc., that universalize its specifics and earn a payoff about how the proper way to face death is simply to continue living.
As someone who’s constantly torn between two countries, I found Wang’s observations on the clash of ideologies to be resonant. Emotionally, however, I had trouble connecting to the film’s core. I felt distant from the characters as the events unfolded. Once the lie is established, and we go past the immediate outrage of the family’s decision, The Farewell enters a status quo which is maintained until the end (cont'd)
Regrettably, this is just the sort of brilliant-but-not-showy film the Academy often fails to recognize; Lulu Wang lets quiet tableaus breathe and trusts they'll hold our attention with slick ensemble staging and digetic framing (they do). In Awkwafina's introspective, implosive turn, she finds the perfect vessel for a drama about repressed emotion's hilarity and misery.
3.5 - You wouldn't think that a story this simple would have a script that is not that coherent. For better or worse though, The Farewell tries to bite a bit more than it can chew. But please forget about the hype (or that this is sold as a comedy because it is not) and enjoy this handcrafted little gem with a worthy ensemble (especially Awkwafina, Diana Lin and Shuzhen Zhao) and an exquisite sense of composition.
A respectful and sweet family drama, that presents you with an interesting moral dilemma and the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. Great things lie ahead for director Lulu Wang and Awkwafina, I'm sure. Also... Nai Nai <3