I heard a ton of positive word of mouth on The Farewell as it currently holds a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and some of the online critics I like were raving about it. I went to it today. I liked it. I would not rave about it, but it was definitely good.
Billi (Awkwafina) is a Chinese-American living in New York, struggling to get by. When she discovered that her beloved grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) was dying of lung cancer. Her parents were planning on going to China, but Billi was shocked when she discovered that no one in the family intended on telling Nai Nai about the diagnosis.
Apparently, it is tradition in China of family members to keep this type of fatal diagnosis a secret to allow the sick person to enjoy his/her last days worry free.
So, Nai Nai’s family was arriving in China under the pretense of a wedding for Billi’s only cousin Hao Hao (Han Chen) when no such wedding was planned. It was only an excuse for her family to come and spend time with Nai Nai while she still had time.
At first, Billi was told by her father (Tzi Ma) and mother (Diana Lin) that Billi could not go because she would tell her grandmother the truth, or at least would be unable to hide her feelings from her. Of course, her father and his brother were just as bad at this, if not considerably worse.
The film was a lot of interrelationship scenes between the people of this family who were continuing to debate whether what they were doing was the right thing or if they should tell Nai Nai the truth to allow her to say her goodbyes.
There is a lot of emotions here, but, honestly, I thought there would be much more than what was presented. What they did have was a well-written and human story of guilt and grief, tip-toeing around something that none of them wanted to admit.
Awkwafina was excellent as Billi, playing her love for Nai Nai against the pain of knowledge that she had in her own heart. I thought, as well, that the actress playing Nai Nai, Shuzhen Zhao, was spectacular. She was funny, sweet and cute as could be.
There were some wonderful scenes detailing some of the cultural aspects of the Chinese and comparing them to those same cultural aspects in America.
This was based on the true story (or as the movie tag line states. “Based on an actual lie”) that happened with the film’s director and writer Lulu Wang. The role of Billi is based on the real occurrences that happened to Wang’s family in 2013. So much so that the character of Little Nai Nai (Nai Nai’s sister) was actually played by Wang’s real life Little Nai Nai.
The twist at the very end of the film wraps the whole film up with a perfect bow. The film is very heartfelt and sweet, and is extremely well acted. It also provided some depth to the life of people in China. It is not my favorite film of the year, but it is very good.