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The Farewell

Opening Date
03 Oct 2019
101 mins
English & Mandarin - subtitles to be advised
Lulu Wang
Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo
This critically acclaimed film follows a Chinese family who, when they discover their beloved Grandmother has only a short while left to live, decide to keep her in the dark and schedule an impromptu wedding to gather before she passes. Billi (Awkwafina), feeling like a fish out of water in her home country, struggles with the family’s decision to hide the truth from her grandmother.
By Flora  02 Oct 2019
Lulu Wang’s family drama is a beautiful mash-up of both comedy and seriousness, never trying too hard to please. 
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The family convenes in China for one final visit to bid goodbye to Nai Nai, on the pretext of attending a cousin’s wedding. Lulu Wang’s family drama is a beautiful mash-up of both comedy and seriousness, never trying too hard to please. 

Billi (Awkwafina) lives in New York, miles away from her paternal grandmother, affectionately known as Nai Nai, who lives in Changchun, China. They love each other deeply, like most grandparents are, evidently from the endearing long-distance phone calls they make regularly. When she hears that her beloved Nai Nai is dying from terminal lung cancer and that her family are flying out to see her, Billi finds her own ways to join the family despite her parents and relatives disagreement. The family decides to keep mum about her illness and Billi is under strict orders not to reveal it to granny. 

“Chinese people have a saying: when people get cancer, they die,” says Billi’s mother (Diana Lin). “But it’s not the cancer that kills them, it’s the fear.”

The planned cousin’s marriage is just an excuse for the family to gather and have a happy time together. Billi, from the get-go, doesn’t agree with the arrangement, fighting to make sense of her family’s unreasonable logic, but as the film progresses, you see that she resigns to it, hoping she made the right choice to hide it from her. But she isn’t the only one in the family struggling to keep her emotions in check.

Awkwafina may be known for her brash rapper style music or the fast-speaking pickpocket in Ocean’s 8, but in The Farewell, there’s no such kind of humour for the actress to hide behind - baring all as the vulnerable and confused young adult who just wants to love her Nai Nai. Sure, there are elements of jokes and self-deprecating humour in it, but it never goes over-the-top as you’d expect from her past works. 

Director Lulu Wang, who also serves as a writer in the film, creates a layered poignant story, giving us glimpses of the cultures, living standards and the hard heart-to-heart conversations that most Asian families avoid. Perhaps it’s the bridge of a New York family who had adopted a Western lifestyle, confronts the Asian values and systems that sparks a conversation of what’s right and wrong. For Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), she is the epitome of a cheerful but headstrong matriarch who is the decision-maker of the family, but at the same time, has a soft spot for her granddaughter. Their heart-to-heart conversations are bittersweet for audiences because each sentence is filled with so much love, but at the same time, there’s a clear end to Nai Nai’s words of wisdom. 

What makes The Farewell such a heartwarming story is the amalgamation of emotions from the family members, all except Nai Nai who is always believing she’s in the pink of health. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry, but most importantly, you will remember your Nai Nai. 
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