the-farewell-film-review
Community

'The Farewell' Film Review

Director Lulu Wang presents a powerful exploration of family grief and cultural exploration.

9
'The Farewell' Film Review

Every year, the Sundance Film Festival comes along and inundates film fandom with a healthy dose of anticipation, ultimately just before the Academy Award nominations are announced and buzz shifts over to them. That is, except for those few films that journalists and early audiences won't stop buzzing about until their hopeful release. The Farewell is one of those films, the newest project from Posthumous director Lulu Wang and based on Wang's own experiences with her grandmother.

For myself, I came into this film with only the backing knowledge of said buzz. I hadn't seen any of Wang's past work, nor heard the original basis of the story through her This American Life interview (see here). I have, however, been a fan of lead actress Nora Lum, better known as Awkwafina, for a while now.

Yes, her uniquely captivating roles in films like Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians and Gary Ross' Oceans 8 got me to believe in her capabilities as an actress, but I was a fan of her way back on MTV's Girl Code which is probably one of the more clever shows MTV has tried in the last few years (not saying much, but I stand by that).

So with enough word of mouth behind it, how does The Farewell stack up as a result? Honestly, it's better than I could have imagined it to be. Lulu Wang's beautifully crafted story of familial loss is as beautifully charming as it is emotionally gripping, leaving a sense of reality that will go straight to the hearts of even the coldest filmgoer.

Billi (played by Awkwafina) is a writer living in New York after she and her family moved from China when she was young, though she regularly talks with her grandmother or Nai Nai. After visiting her parents, she learns that Nai Nai (played by Zhao Shuzhen), has recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer and that the family has decided not to tell her to spare her the emotional burden.

Billi's cousin Hao Hao (played by Chen Han) is going to be married soon and the family wants to use the wedding as an excuse for everyone to see her before she passes away. Initially not invited in fear of her exposing the secret, Billi travels to meet her family in Changchun and reunites with them, where she attempts to engage in the festivities, rediscover her family's culture, and come to grips with her grandmother's condition.

THE FAREWELL | Official Trailer HD | A24 www.youtube.com

What makes 'The Farewell' so special is its ability to utilize grief as a narrative device while never falling into melodrama. The film locks us in as an audience early on by establishing the relationship between Billi and Nai Nai that only gets more wonderfully sweet as the story continues.

Nai Nai is Billi's emotional connection to her home, but the film never tries to get us to feel as though there's a pushiness to either character. There's simply a wonderful connection that we're allowed to follow along with and, as a result, view the families dynamics through that main lens.

That sense of togetherness is interestingly explored within this family unit. As the film points out, there's a distinct split in how Eastern and Western cultures with grief, but very wisely, the film never puts Billi nor her family in the wrong.

They're not split by their backgrounds, but rather united in their love of Nai Nai, and wholeheartedly believe that holding the truth within is better than letting it out in the open. It provides a unique emotional dichotomy that Lulu Wang uses, not to poke fun at cultural differences, but to place the burden of grief into contexts that we might often not consider.

Speaking of the family, we're gifted with a bevy of wonderful performances, not the least of which are its two main characters. Make no mistake: Awkwafina is a bonified actress. She has this wonderful sense of quirkiness that you might expect from some of her other roles, but in her more dramatic moments, she commands the screen.

The central story provides a lot of relatability for the character, and it provides an already distinct character with a strong sense of audience surrogacy that drives that emotional narrative. In addition, Zhao Shuzhen is delightful as Nai Nai, and brought a smile to my face throughout the runtime, as a kind-hearted matriarch who wants only the best for her family at a time of togetherness.

Even on a technical level, there's a lot to praise. Cinematographer Anna Franquesa Solano works tirelessly to portray Changchun as a place that our characters view with both nostalgic vibrancies, as well as anchored sadness. There's a sense that this is a place that Billi, and especially her family, are happy to be back for, but visually, we're also given a sense of complex attachment; that this isn't the place they left so long ago.

Add into account editors Michael Taylor and Matthew Friedman use of lingering character moments, and composer Alex Weston's ethereal, vocal-based score, and you're left with a piece that has so much to visually explore just as much as it's emotional points.

I guess if I have to nitpick, I wish we had gotten a bit more developments with some of the family members. As I mention, most of them are very fleshed out and interesting, but I wish we had gotten a moment with Billi's cousin, considering his wedding is the focal point of when this is taking place. I also think there's a couple of visual sequences that I wish had a bit more context and directorial pacing put to them. Again, they don't take away from the majority of the story, but they're noticeable and I think they distract a little bit.

You may not be entranced by 'The Farewell' at first, but give it time, and the moments it nails will be a gut punch to your soul. I have to thank Lulu Wang for crafting a movie filled with wonderful performances, gorgeously crafted setting, and a sense of universal livelihood that make me reevaluate my own senses of grief and familial responsibilities. I hope that come next years Sundance, when Oscar nominations are on the horizon and the new buzz is about to take over, this film doesn't lose its momentum, because this is worth talking about just as much.

Overall, I give 'The Farewell' 9 out of 10.

_____________________________________

Want to check out the film? Click here!

Also, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @TheMovieKing45

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Dear Closeted Latina,

You were never alone.

Remember how the Latin world got rocked when Ricky Martin came out?

Keep Reading... Show less

It wasn't until I hit 23 years old that I started getting hangovers. It could've been from two glasses of wine or even a margarita at happy hour, the next day, consider me bed-bound until further notice.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because Air Travel Looks Different Now

If you have to travel, you can — you just have to take a few extra steps.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

As we are learning how to live our lives in the midst of a pandemic, one big question being travel. States that were initially labeled coronavirus (COVID-19) epicenters, like New York and New Jersey, are extra cautious in how freely residents can travel and then come home. Other states may not have the same travel restrictions as the epicenters, but one thing is for sure — no matter where you fly within the United States, that trip will look different than your usual summer vacation. Sure, it can still happen, you just need to take a few more steps to make sure your trip will go smoothly.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Top 10 Santana Lopez Performances On 'Glee' That MADE The Show

In honor of Naya Rivera's passing, I compiled a list of her best performances as Santana Lopez as "Glee".

FOX

Hearing about the tragic passing of the beloved actress, singer, and model Naya Rivera was tragic to say the least. "Glee" was a huge part of my life, Santana being one of my favorite characters, so it was shocking to hear the news.

Keep Reading... Show less

The Caribbean is a place where people go for vacation, but if you set out from a cruise ship you miss out on all the beautiful culture. Their exotic beaches are nothing without their zinging food and hospitality. Locals in the Caribbean are warmhearted with a zest to live life to the fullest.

This is exactly where most of their words and phrases come from, having a good time. I definitely enjoyed myself living in the Caribbean, but it's not always about lounging. They get work done too and I've learned proper phrases for accomplishments.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

What's Coming To And Leaving Netflix In August For Your Summer Viewing Pleasure

Just in time for another your end of summer binge-watch list.

Flower Films, Warner Bros, New Line Cinema

August is here, which means we will be losing some of our Netflix favorites but gaining some new ones. Here is a list of TV shows and movies we will be losing and gaining on Netflix during August.

Keep Reading... Show less

According to Urban Dictionary, a "simp" is defined as "a man that puts himself in a subservient/submissive position under women in the hopes of winning them over, without the female bringing anything to the table." There are many other definitions for a "simp," but basically it's shaming men who are kind to women without getting anything in return.

Let's just stop attacking nice men. Work out your own issues, don't project your shortcomings onto another man. What happened to the brotherhood? Y'all can lie for each other, but can't raise each other up? You guys can encourage murder, gang rape, and violence against women — or at least stay silent about it — but can't let your brother know it ain't cool when they bring you down for being nice to women with no expectation?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Living With Bipolar Disorder Is An Everyday Battle, But I'm Fighting It

I went from depression, to anxiety, to bipolar disorder.

I've thought about how to write this since my diagnosis. I've thought about what kind of feelings it might bring up from my mom, former friends, and even myself. I've rewritten it a thousand times in my head, but never could quite get the words onto my notepad, but tonight I'm going to sit down and write it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Self-Love Is The Best Love, That's Just How It Is

Do you ever feel like you can't please everyone? Self-love will do the trick.

I've been feeling a little down lately, with the understanding that friends don't last forever and that I can't always please my parents. Life has been rough for everyone lately and it's not easy to stay happy and optimistic during these times. But I promise you, you are on this earth for a reason. You are here because God formed you, to love, and to be loved.

When things are tough, realize that you have yourself always. No one can take that away from you. You will always be you. No matter who you are, what you believe, or where you've been in life, at the end of the day, you are you. You can love you, therefore giving you one reason to stay here on this Earth.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Ranking 'The Umbrella Academy' Cast By Their Powers

I'm ranking the characters of Netflix's show "The Umbrella Academy" by how cool their powers are.

With the new season of "The Umbrella Academy" coming out tomorrow, I took the time to revisit the first season to refamiliarize myself with the characters.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments