The Farewell is a delightfully poignant dramedy that tells the true story of an actual lie, as the film's tagline says. Writer/director Lulu Wang went through this with her own family, and you can feel her personal story throughout the entire film. I must first praise Awkwafina for her incredible lead performance as Billi, the America-raised granddaughter who is torn between loyalty to her family and loyalty to her beloved grandmother. I honestly didn't think she had it in her, but now I can't wait to see what's in store for her next.
Billi and her parents learn that her grandmother (Shuzhen Zhao) is dying of lung cancer, and as per Chinese culture, they decide to withhold that information from grandmother as a way to spare her pain. In China, they believe that it isn't necessarily just the cancer that kills. It's the fear of death that comes with the cancer, and the acceptance of defeat. The family travels to China under the guise of a wedding to say goodbye to their grandmother, in a film that I would compare to a wake. There's sadness and fear, but there's also the warmth and joy that comes with celebrating the good memories and love of family. The film treats the audience like a family member, as you bear witness to a loving family on the verge of losing their matriarch.
The cast is all flawless, and Lulu Wang is about to become a force to be reckoned with among the newcomers of Hollywood. The Farewell treats death with reverence, but also with a firm acceptance that it isn't the end. I urge anyone struggling with the loss or impending loss of family to watch this movie. I believe it will help with the transition and show you that the love never truly goes away.