The Farewell is one of those movies that challenges the audience to be curious about the people in our family we care most about. What impact do our family members have on our own lives? I found The Farewell to be engrossing, but also melancholy. The film has that reticent tone where the audience knows that the story is not meant to be uplifting. It has some humorous moments, but it is a drama, not a comedy.
The Farewell focuses on a Chinese family. This family finds out their grandmother does not have much time left and is soon to die. This motivates the family to want to put together a semi-special and memorable ceremony before she dies. The focus of the movie is the granddaughter Billi (played by Awkwafina). She returns from New York because of her grandmother being terminally ill. Billi faces challenges with the other family members based what they believe is the right way to handle the situation. Most of her family believe they should keep her grandma in the dark about the fact that she is going to die. This creates some harsh tides between Billi and her family.
The Farewell depicts a family trying to remain in silence so the person who is suffering can die peacefully and without stress or tension. For Billi, she views this approach as absurd and negative. The director, Lulu Wang directed another drama that also dealt with the handling of negative news. He did so with Posthumous (2014) and now he is again with the Farewell. However, Posthumous featured challenging legal issues, and the Farewell is all about family matters.
During the Farewell, I was intrigued with how Billi’s issues are brought into the conflict with her grandmother. Her parents challenge her decisions and what she wants to do with her life. They do that because they want Billi to remain focused on her future and not on her grandma. There are several moments where Billi finds herself in personal distress wondering about the next steps to take in her own life.
The Farewell is not amazing, but it is vivid with strong writing and acting. I was captivated by the characterization and drama. The film has some well-executed thematic elements. Also, the lack of music and the subdued lighting sets the tone for the dark topic of the movie. I give the Farewell three and a half stars.