Review: ‘The Farewell’ is gentle and quiet, but also funny

By Lindsey Bahr | Associated Press

The premise behind writer and director Lulu Wang’s wonderful film “The Farewell ” might be a little hard to accept for some audiences. A family collectively decides not to tell their grandmother that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has only three months to live. But wanting a chance to say goodbye, they arrange an elaborate ruse — a wedding — to get everyone together one last time.

Far-fetched? For Americans it is. But as we learn in the first frame, the film is “Based on an actual lie.”

Yes, Wang has mined her own family’s wild true story to create a film that, despite its hyper-specific premise and setting, is a universally relatable and heart-rending portrait of how looming death affects a family. It’s not emotionally manipulative or even necessarily a tear-jerker, although it’s not a bad idea to bring along tissues. “The Farewell” is a stoic and honest representation of a flawed and lovely family coming to terms with the inevitable.

Awkwafina plays the stand-in for Wang. Her character, Billi, is a 31-year-old New Yorker whose financial and career instability is starting to become more than just a temporary state of youth. She’s having trouble paying the rent, her parents are reaching the point where they don’t really want to help anymore, and she’s just been rejected for a fellowship she was counting on. She’s rudderless and drifting.

Then her parents inform her that her beloved grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao, who will win your heart in an instant) is dying in China. They’re not going to tell Nai Nai, and instead are going to China under the pretense of her cousin getting married, even though he’s only been dating his girlfriend for a few months.

Billi, who has been raised in the United States since she was 6, is appalled they’d even think of keeping the diagnosis from Nai Nai. Her mother Jian (Diana Lin) flatly explains, “There’s a saying in China: When you get cancer, you die.” Part of what kills you, she believes, is the fear. Later, someone asks what the point would be in ruining Nai Nai’s good mood with the truth. You might even find yourself buying into the idea at points. Maybe this is a more empathetic way.

And so a plane ride later, everyone is together at Nai Nai’s, cooking, eating, quarreling and planning this very real fake wedding. Her

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

      

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