Peter and I saw “The Farewell” last weekend, even as the precarious state of my father’s health was hanging over us. I then wrote this review; however, I’m rewriting it now due to my father’s passing last night.
The story for the film concerns a Chinese-American girl Billi (Awkwafina) who is told by her parents that her grandmother is dying. She’s can’t say anything to the grandmother, she’s told, and they don’t want her going to China with them because they fear her emotional displays will give everything away. Billi goes anyway.
She learns a lot about the power of ignorance in the face of disaster and the power of the mind over the body. Even though the movie is mostly in Chinese, with subtitles, and the culture is so different, we see that our families are very much the same. There is, in these divisive time, something almost activist about this, revealing the truth by simply telling a story about telling a lie.
Awkwafina is a revelation, mostly because you believe her as Billi and you can sense what she’s feeling, a crucial ability for a good actor. She’s not just a comedian. The rest of the cast is great, too, especially the grandmother whom they call Nai Nai, played by Shuzhen Zhao; she’s adorable but she’s also very real, calling the bride-to-be in the film “stupid” and telling her family members “you look terrible” at regular intervals. She’s got such a forceful spirit that you understand why Billi is so upset at the prospect of losing her. And Billi’s torn living her own life, which requires being so far away from her grandmother.
I feel that with my precious family members. I feel guilty about the little time I’ve spent with my parents since I left for college. But I have to remember that they did the same thing. They both left their homes at an early age and got back when they were able. You have to live your life, but it’s heartbreaking sometimes especially as you see age advance on your parents relentlessly each time you do return.
At my age, I see my peers dealing with the same issues, if their parents are still alive. It absolutely sucks that we have to age and have our bodies slowly malfunction. But what are you going to do?
Okay, that’s about all I can write now.
Anyhow, see this film whether you’re dealing with similar issues or not. It’s funny and touching and has a fascinating Chinese wedding, to boot.