The Farewell is a universally identifiable gem of a family dramedy.
For her sophomore feature-length effort, writer/director Lulu Wang (Posthumous) draws from real-life experience of how her family addressed a serious issue by staying silent. In The Farewell, a family’s beloved grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), is diagnosed with lung cancer, but the news is kept a secret from her in an attempt to prolong her life. Nai Nai’s family recognizes that the critical diagnosis could also bring along fear and stress which would weigh heavily on her. Instead, an upcoming wedding is used as a subtle reunion for family members, who may not see Nai Nai in Changchun, China on a frequent basis, to have some final memories.
A concern arises when Billi, the aspiring artist of the family, is devastated by the diagnosis. While her parents appreciate Billi’s emotional reaction, they’re worried she may spill the beans. Nonetheless, Billi travels to China to cherish what may be her last visit.
Lulu Wang pours her heart and soul into The Farewell and, by doing so, the filmmaker finds genuine levity and subtext during moments of sadness. The ensemble cast is made up of noteworthy individuals who effortlessly find the authenticity within the story, but Wang has especially been blessed by nurturing performances from Zhao Shuzhen and Awkwafina. The latter, known for her comic relief in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Crazy Rich Asians, and Netflix’s Dude, takes her acting career to another level. As Billi, Awkwafina faces the challenges of a more sobering role and successfully finds the perfect emotional range required of this character. While Shuzhen, who makes an award-worthy acting debut in Wang’s semi-autobiographical movie, has the power to warm hearts with a single glance and make us smile with her sincerity.
I loved The Farewell, and you will too. It’s, undoubtably, one of the best films of the year.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie