By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Not many specialty/indie movies are making as big a splash this summer like “The Farewell,”
the new dramedy from director/screenwriter and co-producer Lulu Wang.
Although the Chinese-born American writer/filmmaker made her directorial debut with the 2014 feature film “Posthumous” starring Jack Huston and Brit Marling, “The Farewell”—which wowed audiences and critics at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—has Wang enjoying her moment in the spotlight.
“The Farewell” is also Wang’s most personal movie as it tells about her growing up with her Chinese immigrant family. It’s a true story, but as noted in the film’s opening credits, “The Farewell” is also “based on an actual lie.”
Korean and Chinese actress/rapper Nora Lum, aka Awkwafina, who nearly stole the show in “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Ocean’s 8,” is pitch perfect once again. This time she deftly balances drama and
Awkwafina stars as Billi, a struggling writer from Brooklyn trying to mask her pain and anger when she receives a rejection letter for a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her life really starts to unravel when her mother Jian (Diana Lin, TV’s “The Family Law”) and father, Haiyan (Tzi Ma, “Skyscraper”/upcoming “Mulan”) informs Billi that her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), who lives in China, is dying of cancer.
Here’s the thing. The entire family has made a pact not to tell the elderly matriarch Nai Nai that she’s dying.
They want to spend their time with her being happy and not burdening and scaring her with the devastating news.
So, the plan is to pretend that Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han) and his girlfriend Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara), who he barely knows, are getting married.
The families go all out to arrange this fake wedding in China. Everyone must be on board with the secret. For the most part everyone is initially except Billi.
For Billi, this isn’t some little secret or white lie. This is a big deal. It’s literally life and death. The thought of seeing her grandmother thinking she’s doing fine when she really isn’t, is hard for Billi to handle.
The family goes all in and even alters medical reports and the like to make this whole thing play out like they want.
Billi’s mother tries to persuade her that telling the truth isn’t always the kindest way. She says the news will only upset Nai Nai and there’s nothing she could do about it anyway. “It’s not the cancer that kills her,” she says to Billi. “It’s the fear.”
Even the family doctor agrees this is a “good lie.” Billi hates it, but eventually agrees with the elaborate ruse.
The joy of “The Farewell” comes with watching this terrific cast convincingly wrestle pain, fear, guilt, love and laughter from Lulu Wang’s heartfelt and dynamic story.
"The Farewell" is a real gem.
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Check Out This Trailer "THE FAREWELL"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.