It’s an honouring of the world we live in, how different it can be, whilst still being positive and joyous
For a social or family foreign language drama to strike a chord overseas, it genuinely has to capture a true to life but open view of its country. There’s a stigma around reading subtitles or embracing other cultures that shouldn’t be there in the common population, but is undeniably present, and that means these films are already fighting a battle they don’t deserve to be caught up in.
The Farewell, Lulu Wang’s affecting new film about the reaction and perception of death in China, and how that relates to someone from an entirely different culture, is exactly that. It’s story is a relatable and intimate portrayal of struggles with death, opening up minds to views and ideas that would never have entered the thoughts of the majority of a western audience. The Farewell has some seriously great assets, and its clashing of cultures is perhaps its greatest success of all.
Billi (Awkwafina) moved from China to America as a young girl with her parents, leaving behind the family they knew. Now in her twenties and looking to start college, the family is hit with the news that Nai Nai, Billi’s paternal Grandmother living in Changchun, China has lung cancer. However, as per Chinese culture, Nai Nai is oblivious to the fact, despite the family deciding to all descend on her flat for one last celebration with her.
Wang, in excellent film making style, has managed to portray Billi’s torn loyalty brilliantly, as she tries to make sense of the difficult and alienating situation. It’s not an easy task, and could easily come across as shaming one or both cultures, but instead, The Farewell becomes a celebration. It’s an honouring of the world we live in, how different it can be, whilst still being positive and joyous. It’s a film with huge heart and a love of culture clashes and cultural differences.
Beautifully shot, and steadily paced, there’s genuine film making prowess within The Farewell, and that goes a long way to reaffirming its themes and ideas. It fits perfectly with the long line of A24 releases that currently shape the state of modern cinema so brilliantly.
Informative, powerful and funny, The Farewell is everything a family drama should be. No melodrama or over the top twists, just a slow, realistic portrayal of genuine life, whilst highlighting how important those close by actually are in shaping each and every personality in our diverse world.
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