“The Farewell” is a rich family drama that provides a poignant observation of Chinese life when Billie, played by the brilliant Awkwafina, returns from New York to spend time with her dying grandmother.
Nai Nai has been diagnosed with cancer everyone knows of her impending death, however, the family have decided to keep the news from her. Although this is done in the best spirit possible to protect her the ethics behind the decision really trouble Billie who is struggling with her grandmother not knowing the truth.
A family wedding is planned, at which Billi’s cousin, who grew up mostly in Japan, will marry his girlfriend. The gathering also gives extended family members the opportunity to pay their respects to the dying matriarch, although no one is to shed a tear or mention her illness. This leads to comical and at times very moving moments where the charade could be exposed whilst a great deal of introspection is also taking place.
The Farewell is an uplifting account of a young woman not only trying to reconnecting with her Nai Nai but also with her Chinese culture and the way of life that she has left behind, the whole experience highlights the cultural and generational differences that she and peers are navigating in modern China and as first-generation immigrants.
We always know that Billie will return to the states or indeed leave China again depending on your own viewpoint, there is a longing for the home she has left behind and the romanticisation of the past will begin to dimish as the loss of Nai Nai becomes a reality.
However, until then, the beloved elderly matriarch and her granddaughter create many meaningful moments together in this breakout film for Awkwafina and director Lula Wang.