Lulu Wang’s The Farewell walked a fine line between humanism and kitsch, grounded representations and sweeping brushstrokes, emotional affectations and sentimentality; it’s to the Chinese-American filmmaker’s credit – in her ability to portray the fraught topic of intercontinental cultural differences through the lens of her personal experiences – that it stayed on the preferred side of the aforementioned line, instead of being trapped into its easy likeability. Starting off with the disclaimer that it’s “based on an actual lie” –indicating that the tale’s a fictionalization was on something that actually happened – the film portrayed the enormous East-West chasm in the way the topic of mortality is handled; and it did so in a manner that was moving, sincere and even funny at times, albeit under a decidedly melodramatic framework and forsaking familial complexity for warmth. Billi (Awkwafina), a second generation Chinese-American in her 30s and a wannabe writer whose aspirations aren’t going anywhere, has an intimate bond with her aged grandmother who she calls Nai Nai (Zhao Shu-zhen); the lilting long-distance call that the narrative begins with set the movie’s tone, especially in the way each paints a rosier picture of their dreary realities. As it turns out, Nai Nai is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and doesn’t have long to live; therefore, to bid her adeau without divulging the harsh truth of her imminent death, the extended family congregates from around the globe to China by staging a fake wedding. While the rest of the family are convinced of the morality of this approach, Billi’s American sensibilities make it extremely difficult for her to accept it – and that formed a key motif in this gregarious and earnest, if tad simplistic, work.
Director: Lulu Wang
Genre: Drama/Family Drama