A movie that transcends over generations, The Farewell by director Lulu Wang is an American-Chinese comedy drama about Billi, played by actress Akwafina, and her family dealing with her grandma who has cancer. However, instead of telling grandma about the sickness, they decide to not tell her in order to let her live the rest of her life with no fear. So, the family hosts a “fake” wedding to spend the last few days with her, together.
While the rest of the family is content with the decision, Americanized Billie is confused. She tries to act as a voice of reasoning to her family, comparing the western customs to the eastern customs on how to deal with death. However it is vividly shown through the scenes that Wang placed that this is reality that many families must undergo. Wang normalizes this through dichotomous light-hearted comedy versus the heartfelt, meticulous dialogue that makes the movie refreshing and draws the audience to find a common ground between the eastern and western culture. We are able to find some clarity and understanding through the perspective of Billi which is also struggling to understand why they are doing this.
While I found myself not understanding the perspective behind the family throughout the movie, towards the end I was able to get a grasp and empathize what it must’ve been like to see your family member living their life without a single clue on what was actually going on. Wang does an excellent job on the tonal balance that not only draws the heartstrings but makes you laugh out loud on multiple occasions. She incorporates joyful scenes between the family, encompassing the life of Nai Nai, played by Zhao Shuzhen, that represent a typical Asian household that I can relate to. From the food, to the awkward conversations, everything that Wang placed was for a purpose.
The Farewell is a movie that will last for generations, not only as a cultural movie, but a movie that broke barriers for strong Asian women. Lulu Wang charted the path for a new generation of aspiring Asian women wanting to be in the media, allowing a powerful, life-changing movie that shows representation.
Written by Genesis Magpayo. Edited by Emily Wu.