The Farewell and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Lulu Wang
I really haven’t seen nearly as many small release and indie films as I should have this year which is a shame because Can You Ever Forgive Me, Sorry to Bother You, and Ingrid Goes West certainly aren’t the kind of films that will be playing at my local theater which STILL has Aladdin yet no room for this film. Yes, I had to go out of town once again to see something even marginally outside the mainstream (how does an Awkwafina movie not get on every screen in the world!?) but more often than not the effort has been worth it as there are a lot of great stuff to find outside the blockbuster tent pole films, and not ALL of them have gone to Netflix yet! Does this family drama about a family member dying somehow manage to be the standout film of the summer, or are we doomed for mediocre dreck ON TOP OF such as somber premise? Let’s find out!!
Billi (Awkwafina) is your typical American millennial; in that she’s living in New York, she wants to be a writer, and she is perpetually broke. Oh well! At least she has her parents to support her (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin) and has maintained a good relationship with her paternal grandmother who she refers to as Nai nai (Zhao Shuzhen) and talks to on a regular basis. One day however, when Billi is home to do her laundry, she finds out that Nai Nai has been diagnosed with lung cancer and only has a few months left to live. The whole family including relatives in Japan will be going to see her so they can make her goodbyes which is about all Billi could hope for from this tragic situation, BUT WAIT! The family SPECIFICALLY doesn’t want her to go! Why? As it turns out NO ONE IS TELLING NAI NAI SHE’S DYING (her sister played by Lu Hong hid the medical reports) and everyone is pretending that Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han) is getting married as an excuse for the trip. Billi being the… I don’t know, emotional and/or Westernized one is liable to spill the beans if she sees her. Billi goes anyway however despite the protests of her parents but she does manage to keep the secret for the time being. However, she’s constantly struggling with whether to tell her while going along with this wedding ruse that starts to spiral out of control; all the while just trying to deal with the fact that she’s going to lose someone so important to her as well and the (at least to her) bewildering actions her family is taking. Will Billi come clean to Nai Nai or is keeping this a secret the more humane approach? Will the family get the closure they need during this trip despite the layers of subterfuge getting in the way? What if Nai Nai has some unfinished business she needs to take care of!? How do they REALLY know what she’s up to on the weekends!?