Add another to the list. The Farewell was another screener I actually wanted to go to, but real life got in the way. Amusingly, this time I couldn’t go because my own wife was about to go on a week long trip, so I had to help her on her own farewell.
But I was happy in that I knew I’d have time to see it before the end of the year. It would eventually come out and be watchable.
And it looked sad, and if it could provide a good cry, I am all for it, any day of the week.
That’s a lot of people not crying who clearly want to cry.
Billi (Awkwafina) is an aspiring writer and a Chinese-American immigrant. Her family moved her down to the states form China when she was a little girl, and she has been in America since then. Despite this, she has still maintained a good relationship with her grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen). She will call her often, update her on her life, and you know, give her a good chance to practice her Chinese.
Well, she finds out sometime soon a few things. One, her cousin is getting married in China very soon, and two, her Nai Nai has terminal cancer and is not going to last long.
However, in their culture, they do not like to tell people when they are going to die. They believe that the fear of the disease is worse than the disease itself. It is what really kills. No, they should just tell them everything is fine, so their last days are peaceful and not worrying.
Well, Billi has grown up in America. She doesn’t like that. American doctors wouldn’t lie and keep secrets like that. She should tell her. In fact, the wedding is just being rushed so that the family can gather and have a good time with Nai Nai before she passes. And despite trying to keep her away, Billi shows up anyways.
Billi promises that she will not tell her grandmother the truth, but she has to struggle with this the whole time.
Oh? Oh? Ohhhhh? Is then when the crying begins?
Gosh darn it. Here I am, in 2019, trying to be all mad at China. You know, for the President being a dictator, the poor workers rights, the former one child policy nonsense, the Hong Kong anti-protest measures. All of that.
And yet, then I have to go and watch a movie that makes me sad for China in a different way.
Awkwafina gives the performance of a lifetime for her, which might not mean much if you knew she has a rap song titled My Vag. She hasn’t been in that many movies technically, but she has been in a lot more recently, and it is great to not see her typecasted into these strange comedic roles.
This feels like a personal film for Awkwafina, and it is based on someone else’s real story, but her and all of the other actors in this film have to carry on so many emotions without easy outlets to express them. After all, they have to hide the truth from a perceptive older lady. So we get to see a lot of inner battles.
The Farewell is an intimate look at a culture that will seem unfamiliar and wrong to your likely non-Chinese eyes. And yet the glimpse into their lives cannot be called wrong, but bittersweet, and with its own pros and cons.