The Farewell (2019)
Written and directed by Lulu Wang
Starring: Awkwafina, Diana Lin, Tzi Ma, Shuzhen Zhao
Billi’s (Awkwafina) grandmother (Zhao) is dying, and everyone knows it but her. When Billi travels to China to see her, her beliefs clash with a family dynamic she doesn’t understand.
This incredibly unique film was written and directed by Lulu Wang (Posthumous). The film stars Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Diana Lin (Australia Day), Tzi Ma (Arrival), and Shuzhen Zhao.
Sometimes it’s the most simple premise that brings out the complicated emotions in a film. This one is a great example of how that can happen. The movie does a good job of bringing western and eastern cultures together and highlighting the sometimes dramatic differences between them. This one also bring in the challenges of family within those two worlds. Still, the best part of the film is how relatable it can be. This script does an excellent job of putting the audience in the shoes of the characters. Each of the main characters is experiencing something real and intense. As the story continues, we get to see a number of points of view. What seem to be clear answers soon become less obvious and we begin to understand the reasons for the choices being made. The film pays off in ways that are sometimes unexpected, but still work within the bigger picture. Overall, this is a powerfully emotional film that finds comedy and heart within a complicated story.
The cast did a wonderful job with this one. The range of emotion within the story is huge, and they had to hit all the right notes to make this work. Awkwafina leads the way with an impressive performance. She does great work with some really challenging emotional moments. She holds her own opposite some great co-stars as well. There are moments of fun and humor, but this was a big change from most of her previous work. Diana Lin is another one of the standouts in this one. She does a nice job finding the right tone to play her character in this one. It’s a unique role, complicated by the cultural restraints of her character. She pulls it off with some great moments in this one. Tzi Ma also does a great job in a similar role. These three actors are just the center of a cast that has great chemistry and really does good work. The real surprise of the film was the performance of Shuzhen Zhao. This 75 year-old actress brings a charm and heart to her role that colors the entire film. This talented cast did nice work bringing this one to the big screen, and audiences should fall in love with their performances.
This film was shot in New York City as well as Changchun, China. Cinematographer Anna Franquesa Solano (Buck Run) did an excellent job capturing the unique aspects of both places, highlighting the differences and similarities. The film also has an exceptional score, written by Alex Weston (H.). One of the great aspects of this one is the way it brings everyday life in China to the big screen.
This movie is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. The story avoids the kind of pitfalls that would have turned it into a television movie experience. The acting is very good from the central cast members, and fans of the stars should definitely check it out. I would also suggest this one to anyone who likes to see stories told within a different culture. This is a special movie, and I hope audiences take the time to check it out. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.