The Farewell

Cedric Mathew , Editor-in-Chief


Imagine getting diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Now imagine if  no one tells you, the patient, that you were dying. The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang, is based on that actual lie.

The main character Billie, played by Awkwafina, is derived from the director’s life. She’s a twenty-something, second generation New Yorker who’s just trying to live her best life possible. Sometimes, that means moving in and out of her parents’  home.

She calls her grandma Nai Nai almost everyday, and tells her almost everything. However, when her mom accidentally lets it slip that Nai Nai has stage four lung cancer, that starts to change.

The whole family plans a fake wedding in China as a way to see her one last time without having Nai Nai know. Billie, being an emotional person that she is, wasn’t supposed to go considering that her loose lips could run wild. Eventually, Billie shows up in China unannounced, and the rest of the film captures Billie’s struggle to deal with and accept her culture’s custom.

This custom actually is extremely common throughout the world. What makes this movie so beautiful and captivating is its ability to show the challenge of confronting foreign ideologies with an American mindset. Billie wrestles with wanting to tell Nai Nai the truth throughout the movie, and I think this model provides many viewers with new view on approaching death.

Image courtesy of A24

Now considering I left the theater on the verge of hyperventilating, this movie is extremely funny. The family, like every other family, is full off vibrant personalities. Every time there was a family dinner, outing, party, fake wedding, etc., each character was able to really hit a funny joke or comment. I almost couldn’t believe the movie was about the passing of an amazing old woman.

That amazing old woman though was truly astonishing. I thought it was really weird that this girl Billie was closer to Nai Nai than her own parents, but once you meet her, you’ll understand. She’s protective, endearing, vulgar, and sweet all at the same time. Shuzhen Wang, the actress, made everyone in the audience feel like they too had loved her for a long time. I was sad to see her go. It really felt like I was losing her just as much as Billie was.

I loved Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians, but I just have to stan her in The Farewell. In Crazy Rich Asians, she was that funny “Asian Ellen” who made Ebola jokes left and right. As Billie, Awkwafina captures an introspective young woman who helps guide the audience in understanding a culture and practice common in many parts of the world.

Her pain in understanding why they’re lying to Nai Nai demonstrates the previously mentioned East-West divide. Awkwafina enticed the audience to come with her as she learned more about herself and her journey. Without her performance, the journey would not have been as satisfying as it was.

Unlike Crazy Rich Asians, flashiness and grandeur are completely absent. The film effectively utilizes awkward silences and dull images as tokens of familial dynamics. All their emotions were felt in every scene, whether it be with or without dialogue. I personally liked how not much was going on visually in every scene. The movie is strong with just the actors and their raw talent of loving their narrative family.

I originally wanted to see this movie since I wanted to just support another Asian film. However, The Farewell turned out to be much more than that. Every should watch this movie this summer as the vibes and lessons it departs will be unforgettable, at least for a very long time.


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