2019 | Drama | 98 minutes | English and Mandarin with English subtitles
Chinese-born, New York-raised writer Billi Wang, maintains contact with her grandmother, Nai Nai, who lives in Changchun, China. Her parents, Haiyan and Lu Jian, inform Billi that Nai Nai has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only a few months to live. Billi has an idea: The family will pretend her cousin is getting married and the entire family will travel to Nai Nai’s home and celebrate. They also decide not to tell Nai Nai that her illness is terminal. Billi is guilt-ridden. Her parents beg her to stay in New York and not participate in this lie. The doctor treating Nai Nai feels that this kind of dishonesty is appalling. The “wedding” banquet is well-attended and very emotional as the many family members get together and celebrate with Nai Nai. As they tearfully returned to their homes in Japan and the U.S., the family was satisfied: Nai Nai was never told that she had a terminal illness.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 99%
- Metacritic Score: 89
Atlanta Film Festival: Winner, Audience Award
Sundance London: Audience Favorite
The film is expected to receive several Oscars and Golden Globe Awards.
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While director/writer Lulu Wang’s film is obviously personal and culturally specific, it achieves a universality and a resonance through its vivid depiction of a family in the midst of crisis. In sharing her story with us, Wang achieves a masterful tonal balance throughout THE FAREWELL. She’s made a film about death that’s light on its feet and never mawkish. She’s told a story about cultural clashes without ever leaning on wacky stereotypes. She finds a variety of moments for her actors to shine within a large ensemble cast. And she’s pulled off one of the most perfect endings you’ll ever see. The entire film is pretty perfect, actually, and it’s one of the year’s best.
Nothing in Wang’s film feels like manufactured tension. Nai Nai’s fading health and the family’s rare time together keep them from saying anything that can’t be walked back. Sometimes, the film argues, it’s the things we don’t say that prove how much we care. Billi’s path to acceptance of this makes THE FAREWELL one of the most heartfelt homecoming films in years.
Grief and love coexist in THE FAREWELL, as do truth and fiction, past and present, sorrow and joy. It’s an outstanding, quietly devastating, deeply personal story, and one that’s destined to put Wang firmly on the map.
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