By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
This particular movie feels a bit out of place amid all of the usual big Hollywood summer entries, but it proves to be a welcome breath of fresh air. The Farewell is a smaller, more personal indie film which deals with true-to-life characters and immerses its audience in a rich and beautiful culture different from that of typical America. Because it deals with the issues of life, death, and how people deal with these experiences, most adults can relate to what happens. Writer/director Lulu Wang proves herself as an exceptional filmmaker and storyteller to really drive this film into the hearts of anyone who has the pleasure of enjoying what she has to offer.
Awkwafina stars as Billi, a young Chinese-american woman struggling to find the right path for her adult life. Meanwhile, her Chinese citizen grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) struggles to remain strong, as a terminal illness and old age starts to take its toll. However, Grandma Nai Nai actually doesn’t know how sick she really is. According to Chinese tradition, people who suffer from terminal illnesses are often kept in the dark by their families, so that their quality of life should remain unchanged.
This doesn’t sit well with Billi who feels that Nai Nai should know the truth. Things are further complicated as all of Nai Nai’s family have to reunite for a family wedding. Though Nai Nai struggles to remain a strong matriarch for the festivities, most of the family argue over whether or not to tell her the truth.
Writer/director Lulu Wang has made a beautiful, touching, and thoroughly lovable movie with The Farewell. Not only does the film deal with the issues of life and death, it also deals with the culture clashes that occur when people move away to live in other countries. Wang’s movie handles these problems and concerns wonderfully and even incorporates the natural humor that xan result. It is a superbly written and directed piece that is guaranteed to win the hearts of audiences everywhere.
The cast assembled for this picture is absolutely incredible. Awkwafina gives a stand-out turn as Billi. It is her first genuine dramatic performance and the actress gives a tremendously admirable performance. Tzi Ma gives an emotionally powerful and charismatic turn as Billi’s father Haiyan.
As the grandmother Nai Nai, Zhao Shuzhen gives an energetic and passionate performance full of life and vigor. Even in her character’s weaker moments, Shuzhen perseveres as a force of nature and love. The movie also features notable work by Diana Lin, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo, Chen Han, and Aoi Mizurhara.
Not only is The Farewell a lovely and enjoyable breath of something new and different during the summer, it is also one of the better movies of the year. I hope to see more films by Lulu Wang and I would also love to see more dynamic work from actress Awkwafina. She had already proven herself as a great comedic actress with her previous work, but with The Farewell, she proves herself capable of much more.