Review: The Farewell (2019)
Title: The Farewell
Director: Lulu Wang
Bias: As an Asian-American, I’m all about the Asian representation.
In a Nutshell: When Billi’s (Awkwafina) grandmother is fatally diagnosed with cancer, her family decides that she is best kept in the dark about her own medical condition. The family organizes a shotgun wedding for Billi’s cousin in order for everyone to come back to their home in China, without grandma knowing they are there to secretly say their goodbyes. Billi must navigate her homeland as a stranger from America while simultaneously dealing with her grandmother's failing health and her family's decision to keep it a secret.
The Review: Last year we had Jon Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians make waves, as it’s charming all Asian cast shattered box office expectations, becoming a cultural phenomenon along the way. This year we have Lulu Wang's The Farewell making headlines as 2019's indie breakout. It’s slowly been making its way from Sundance and into theaters across America. It’s the 2nd in a series of movies where star Awkwafina gets to hang out in Asia as she casually tops any prior performance from her. With the first being the previously mentioned, Crazy Rich Asians.
Director Lulu Wang says that the film is “based on a true lie.” Although, despite starting the film with that passage written on the screen, the story that follows it is an honest depiction of family. Wang demonstrates that she is proficient in her ability to craft tone. Throughout the story, we fall in love with the family on screen in the same familial way that they love each other on screen. The comedy and drama is balanced in a way that only a family dynamic can truly capture.
Awkwafina lays her soul on celluloid. Putting on the best performance of her career, she proves that she is so much more than comedic relief with the voice of a chain smoker. Her comedic roots are stripped away the moment she appears on screen, and from that point on there is only Billi. A twenty-something living in NYC who immigrated to the US when she was young. Growing up her mindset has shifted to favour western values, and when she returns to China she finds herself feeling lost in the place she once called home.
The film stays grounded in reality as it tackles topics such as death, family, and honesty. As well as going after less broad topics like the differences in eastern and western values, the identity crisis of many Asian-Americans, and saying goodbye without saying goodbye.
All though the story is about an Asian family, The Farewell is a depiction of a family that everyone can probably relate to. Lulu Wang presents a film that will live on for years and will forever be in my heart as well as the hearts of many others.
Final Thoughts: I mean I love this film. It’s opening weekend box office had the highest average theater sales this year so I’m obviously not the only one. And it’s distributed by A24. And who doesn’t like A24? The A24 logo at the start of a movie is basically a badge of approval at this point.