Entertainment » Movies

The Farewell

by Frank J. Avella
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 12, 2019
The Farewell

The notion of pretense as well as the repression of feelings when one is around family is something most people can relate to. In Lulu Wang's heartfelt love letter to her own grandmother, "The Farewell," a Chinese family make the decision to hide a terminal illness from their matriarch. The Chinese-born, but wholly Americanized granddaughter, Billi (a surprisingly subdued and internalized Awkwafina), is outraged by what she views as an antiquated Chinese custom (although it is the norm in many non-U.S. cultures), and she must grapple with the conundrum — as must the entire clan, who have gathered to celebrate a deflection wedding in Changchun, China. The real reason for the reunion is to say goodbye to their Nai Nai (played lovingly by Zhao Shuzhen) without her knowing it.

The many joys in this filmic delight come from Wang's specificity of Chinese rituals, as well as discussions of ethnic identity. In addition, the core argument is presented as an East vs. West issue. "It's our duty to carry this emotional burden for her," explains Billi's exasperated uncle. And a hot Chinese doctor puts it rather plainly when challenged by Billi that it's a deception: "It's a good lie," he offers sympathetically.

This Blu-ray presentation (2:40:1) looks and sounds swell, and features an informative Audio Commentary by Wang and cinematographer Anna Franquesa-Solano as well as two short features. "Nothing but the Truth: Confessions of a Writer-Director," is just that, Wang explaining that the story was entirely based on her real life. She also speaks to casting the three leads. In "Going Home: A Conversation with Awkwafina," the actress addresses how personal the film was to her and how badly she wanted the role. Finally, there are two deleted scenes, one that is so powerful I can't imagine why it was cut out of the film (involving Awkwafina and the terrific Diana Lin, who portrays her mom). Actually, I can understand why it was cut: I'm guessing it was so the film could be shown in China and not piss off the government.

"The Farewell" may be a difficult sit for anyone who has lost a loved one, but it's a worthwhile one as it keenly captures the glorious awfulness and fabulous ridiculousness of family.

The film is in English and Mandarin with subtitles.

"The Farewell"
Blu-ray & Digital

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He is also a proud Dramatists Guild member and a recipient of a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded a 2015 Fellowship Award from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and the Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation Playwright Award for his play Consent, which was also a 2012 semifinalist for the O'Neill. His play, Vatican Falls, took part in the 2017 Planet Connections Festivity and Frank was nominated for Outstanding Playwriting. Lured was a semifinalist for the 2018 O'Neill and received a 2018 Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Grant. Lured will premiere in 2018 in NYC and 2019 in Rome, Italy. LuredThePlay.com

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