Director: Lulu Wang
Date: January 25th 2019
Scenario: Your grandmother who you absolutely adore and turn to whenever you feel the need to talk to someone, has been feeling sick with a persistent cough. She goes to see the doctor and after her doctor visit with her younger sister, the doctor has some bad news but doesn’t tell the patient directly. Instead, he tells her sister that she (grandmother) has terminal lung cancer, and is predicted to have only a few months left to live. The younger sister then proceeds to tell her older sister that everything is okay, and that she just needs to keep taking her meds. Later, she plans a fake wedding to bring the family together so everyone can spend time with her one last time. Now, if this is your grandmother, what would you do? Go against the family (who does not want to tell her) and tell her she doesn’t have much more time, or go along with the lie and pretend everything is okay?
Based on a story shared on the podcast This American Life from director Lulu Wang, the film is about her own grandmother’s illness. The Farewell, Wang’s sophomore feature, showcases Wang’s talents as a writer and a director. The screenplay is tight and cohesive with comedy as well as drama and tear-jerking dialogue. With the story hitting so close to home, one would assume that as soon as Wang started with the script, the words started pouring out of her with ease. The cinematography and music score (done by Anna Franquesa Solana and Alex Weston, respectively) puts the viewer right where we need to be as we follow our lead Billi (Awkwafina) around the busy streets of New York and also smack in the capital and largest city of Jilin Province, Changchun (China). Where Billi’s grandmother lives. When we land in China, we see the chemistry between Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen blossom into something that seems real.
Shuzhen plays Nai Nai, who is Billi’s grandmother, she seemingly steals the movie away from everyone else on the big screen. With a certain balance of poise and sweetness, she plays the role to perfection and you start to feel what everyone in her family is feeling about their unfortunate situation, which is sadness and disbelief. Being Shuzhen’s breakout American film debut, I hope to see her in more films in the near future. As for Awkwafina it would be great to see her in more leading serious roles, as she has showcased a range of emotions, from hilarious to weeping. she has proved she is more than comedic relief and a rapper.
The Farewell hit major theaters right after the halfway point of 2019. Some are claiming that it has been a bad year, but this film seems to come at the exact right time. Being an indie box office success and holding a 99% on rotten tomatoes, it’s going to hard to argue that this isn’t one of this year’s best films when we are inching upon new year’s eve. Let’s hope though, that The Farewell sets the tone for the second half of the year and doesn’t blow the competition out of the water.