Release Date: January 25
Starring: Awkwafina, Shuzhen Zhao, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, et al.
“… The Chinese people have a saying. When people get cancer, they die. It’s not cancer that kills them, it’s the fear.”
This is how I welcome you guys into my thoughts about another movie where cancer plays the villain.
Based on an actual lie, ‘The Farewell‘ positions itself as the swan song of a woman who’s lived a good life and doesn’t know she’s going to die soon because her extra-loving family won’t tell her she’s been diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer.
Family can sometimes be troublesome, but the joy and humor they bring to our lives can never be overemphasized; this makes them a delight to watch in movies and in real life. Nai Nai’s family does what they believe is best for her once they learn about her condition, they drop everything and head over to China to say their coded goodbyes, under the guise of a lavish wedding. Poor Hoa Hoa.
Awkwafina’s Billi is the conscience of this movie. Billi’s parents moved to America when she was six and, as such, has a very different outlook on how these things are done back home. This dynamic raises a lot of interesting dialogues about how America and China aren’t so different from each other.
Billie’s also Nai Nai’s favorite, which makes it very difficult for her to play along with the lie when she first finds out; but in time, she does learn to put her personal feelings aside for the greater good of the family, as indicated by these detached monologues from her uncle.
“In the East, a person’s life is part of a whole”
“… It’s our duty to carry this emotional burden for Nai Nai…”
Watching some of the nuances of Nai Nai’s family felt like watching a Nigerian family. The writing is grounded in reality and very relatable, irrespective of nationality. I like to think of the language of this movie as human; not Chinese or the occasional spoken English — human. That’s what makes it so refreshing.
The delicacy with which the writers and director portray grief and its effect on the family is commendable. There’s nothing lavish about the cinematography, but the wealth of truth in its shots and angles cannot be overemphasized.
Awkwafina as Billi gives a really beautiful performance, one to remember for ages.
Thankfully, that surprise credit makes up for some of the sadness endured during the course of this movie. This is one tragicomedy to be revered and respected for a long time.
Rinzy’s Rating: 4/5
Directed by: Lulu Wang