‘The Farewell’ film review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
This summer in the era of Donald Trump, there have been a lot of recent films containing obvious references to the current US President. Almost every film that I saw this summer has a reference to Trump, which made them more predictable. Many of these films touch on themes of perception, facts, and lies. However, there is one summer film that, while still alluding to Trump, does so in a way that is more relatable and offers solutions to the situations that are happening in the US right now. This film is The Farewell.
The film did very well when it premiered in the Sundance Film Festival this year and in my opinion, it is the surprise hit of this summer.
Directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell follows a woman who lives in Changchun, China known as Nai Nai (Mandarin for paternal grandmother), played by Zhao Shuzhen. Nai Nai has terminal lung cancer but she is unaware of her diagnosis because the rest of her family does not want her to know about it. This is because of a Chinese tradition where the ill member of the family doesn’t get informed of their illness by their family so that the individual does not have to go through the hardships of having an illness. Nai Nai’s entire family including her granddaughter from New York City, Billi (Crazy Rich Asians and YouTube star Awkwafina), comes back to China for the wedding of her cousin from Japan, Hao Hao (Han Chen), while still not telling Nai Nai that she has an illness. Billi does not agree with the idea of keeping the secret, which results in her parents (Diana Lin and Meditation Park’s Tzi Ma) almost preventing her from going to the wedding.
As the film progresses, some members of the family reveal secrets that make you question the family itself. Wang uses a lot of foreshadowing to suggest to the viewer which family member is telling the truth and how the film will end. She also uses opera music to give the film a bittersweet mood. Wang’s script tackles various topics including hiding a secret which makes the problem even worse, how different cultures approach difficult situations, and traditions that create the comedic scenes in the film. Her use of repetitiveness makes those scenes even funnier.
One scene in particular demonstrates that despite cultural differences, there are some things we all can agree on. In another scene, the family compares the difference of being successful in China versus the US; in the US, success is often seen as doing what you love, while in China success is often linked to having wealthy parents. Some scenes that resonated with me in particular included the moments when Billi has conversations with Nai Nai and the rest of her family. In my opinion, these scenes show that the only decent people in the film are Billi and Nai Nai.
The Farewell is a film that everyone can relate to regardless of ethnicity or cultural background. Also, it offers up a powerful message about what the truth can mean and the long-term consequences of keeping a heavy secret.