The Farewell – Review

What Is The Best Way To Say Farewell

The Farewell is an American/Chinese co-production that tackles issues of cultural identity in a way that is relatable for those going through similar experiences and accessible for those who may not be. Directed by Lulu Wang and staring the charismatic Awkwafina the film has so much heart and charm that is has quite possibly slipped into my top 5 best films I’ve seen this year.

The story revolves around a family who, upon learning their grandmother Nai-Nai only has a short time left to live, decide not to tell her and instead schedule a fake wedding to get the family together before she dies. Rife with moral conflict the film does a good job of exploring the decision of whether to tell Nai-Nai or not from both sides, allowing the audience to sympathise with all points of view and avoid a sense of divisiveness.

L to R: “Jiang Yongbo, Aoi Mizuhara, Chen Han, Tzi Ma, Awkwafina, Li Xiang, Lu Hong, Zhao Shuzhen.” Courtesy of Big Beach.

There is a lot to like about this film. The characters all have distinctive personalities, the cinematography is visually interesting, the soundtrack is a constant crescendo of emotion, and the story feels so real especially for anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a loved one. It’s funny at times and completely heart breaking in others perfectly capturing the essence of family life.

The cast play a big part in making the story feel real and Awkwafina gives such a lovely and captivating performance as Billie which pulls you directly into her life immediately from her opening scene. The film I would say is mainly a drama, but the comedy kind of creeps up on you and is never overstated. The jokes are not written to be focused on, they are manifested by the lives of the family just being lived on screen. Another seamless element of the storytelling that connects it so strongly to reality.

I’m not going to pretend that I fully understand the scope of cultural identity issues that are explored in this film but I can certainly appreciate the massive impact a film like this has had on Asian audiences, particularly those living in America or other western countries. It was not something I could identify with on a personal level, however the exploration of these themes didn’t lock me out of enjoying the film. The audience in the theatre with me consisted of a range of diverse ethnicities making the viewing experience a collective sharing of culture.

A film which is being talked about alongside this one is Crazy Rich Asians. Another Chinese/American co-production it was extremely popular with mainstream movie going audiences. My fear for The Farewell is that those same audience members who flocked to cinemas to see Crazy Rich Asians will not see this movie, yet it has far more substance. Not only because this is a story told by a female director but because the story itself has so many layers deftly explored through some amazing script writing, acting, and camera work. I loved Crazy Rich Asians but The Farewell for me is a much more important film for people to go and see at the cinemas.

The Farewell is out in Australian Cinemas NOW

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