Happy New Year! Today I’ll be sharing my reviews of a binge watch of recent films (released within the past 18 months or so)!
Title: The Farewell
Release Date: July 12, 2019
Director: Lulu Wang
Production Company: Ray Productions | Big Beach | Depth of Field | Kindred Spirit
The Farewell, titled Don’t Tell Her in Mandarin, is the story of an extended Chinese family who agree not to tell the family matriarch Nai Nai (Zhao Shu-zhen) that she has terminal lung cancer. The movie is told from the point of view Billi (Awkwafina), Nai Nai’s young adult granddaughter who emigrated to New York City with her parents (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin) when she was a child. Instead the family organizes a wedding of Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han) and his Japanese fiancée Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara) as an excuse to gather the family together to say goodbye to Nai Nai.
The central tension of the film that the Americanized Billi believes Nai Nai deserves to know the truth about her fate while her parents and uncle (Jiang Yongbo) believe it is the Chinese tradition and collective responsibility of the family to bear the grief (Honestly, I know Irish-Americans who would do the same thing if they could get away from it). Zhao Shu-zhen is terrific as Nai Nai, who seems to be a force of nature and perhaps wiser to things than her family believes, while also showing moments of vulnerability when her illness catches up with her. Awkwafina also puts in an excellent performance as the young person between two cultures. All the performances feel natural and like a real family.
The movie is also beautifully filmed with some clever direction. In one scene Nai Nai and Billi have a meaningful conversation while the wedding couple have a ridiculous photo shoot in the background. The wedding reception scenes are also remarkable with the interaction of guests, karaoke performances, and chanting around a table all wonderfully filmed and intercut. The Farewell is an absolute joy of a movie and perfect reflection of family in all of its idiosyncrasies.