Review: The Farewell

You're just too sad.

Billi (Awkwafina) is a Chinese-American who finds her her grandmother (Shuzhen Zhao) is dying of cancer and her family has decided to keep her in the dark per tradition. Not wanting her to travel to China with them and give it away, Billi surprises everyone by making the trip she cannot afford to discreetly say her final goodbyes.

Awkwafina described this movie as an "empathy orgy" in an interview and she's not too far off. While there's some awkward laughs here and there it's cloaked in depression, but not the kind that turns the film into misery porn. Director Lulu Wang based this story on a lie her family truly told her grandmother and you can tell. It feels very personal.

The cast is very good. There's nothing showy about these performances but they're very understated and you believe each character really loves their Nai Nai and are internally processing a lot about the situation. Billi in particular is very introspective with her grief. The strangest thing for me, however, was the fact that they all travel back to China under the guise of Billi's cousins' wedding, yet they never say a word to each other. With one being raised in Japan and on in America, there could be somewhat of a language barrier, but it seemed strange to me that the two grandchildren never had a conversation on what their parents were doing.

I surprisingly wasn't in a puddle of tears by the end of this. I think that was because I kept expecting it to end a certain way and it never did. But I did leave feeling incredibly moved by what I just saw.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable quote: "He's my only cousin, don't you think I should be there?" - Billi (Awkwafina)

19 comments:

  1. Empathy orgy is such a brilliant phrase! This sounds well worth a watch :)

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  2. the nuance of communication and how these characters express love is just what makes this so profound

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  3. I will catch it when it's on VOD, but it sounds like I'll have to watch a bunch of SNL skeches after that :)

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    1. lol if you haven't seen all of them by the time this hits VOD.

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  4. I really hope it's around at my local multiplex for the next week or 2 as it looks like a film I want to take my mother to despite the subject matter of death.

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    1. That's a hard call, it may be rough for you all due to the subject matter, but at the same time you really feel the love that radiates from this family. That might be a comforting thing.

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  5. Goodness, even the trailer seemed like a gut punch, I can only imagine the whole damn thing is killer.

    Glad to hear the performances are good as they look, but I know there's no way in Hell I get to see this in Shit Towne, USA.

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    1. I mean, if my city got it yours has to as well. lol

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  6. Another great review. "I surprisingly wasn't in a puddle of tears by the end of this." - That's actually something I appreciated more and more as I was preparing to review it. I think it could have milked the emotions of the audience (something many movies like this tend to do). But this felt so much more authentic. I got a little misty but I never felt emotionally manipulated or piled onto by the heaviness of the subject.

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    1. Exactly. I really expected to cry like a baby and that just wasn't what this film was about. Just quiet, internal grief. I can appreciate a break from my emotions seeing as so many things make me cry.

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  7. I totally relate with your last paragraph. I didn't really cry hard until I got in the car to leave, because it made me think about my own family. It didn't push the emotional boundaries as hard as I was hoping it to, but I still liked it.

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    1. I'm okay with it not pushing hard, I'm happy to have subtle, introspective grief without snot coming out of my nose.

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  8. This looks like a very sad movie. It seems to be those films that are depressing but that you feel obliged to watch nonetheless. In a way, that is what we look for in a movie; something that moves us.

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