Written and Directed by Lulu Wang
Starring Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, and Diana Lin
Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“At least there is a live body in the house.” – Nai Nai
Imagine if your days were numbered, how would you want to spend them? Personally, I would have everything plotted and planned, basically a version of “me task list” on steroids. Every moment would need to be maximized and lived to the fullest before I transferred to the other side. My movie watchlist would need to be prioritized. The whole notion of “gotta watch ‘em all” would most definitely be out the window. Time is precious and therefore, my final hours be spent visiting all the carnivals, eating all the funnel cakes and spaghetti. All of this would lead up to my last day, when I would be carted into a darkened theater so that the last sight my eyes would be blessed with is my love, the silver screen . As I think this all through, I am starting to realize why it might be in my family’s and friends’ best interest to not inform me of of my imminent departure.
It could possibly be in their right to pretend like it was just another day and not warn me that I am at death’s door, with a one ticket to coffin - at least for their own sanity. If I am clueless and don’t realize the clock is ticking at hyper speed, I would most likely continue to just go about my time. Aimlessly involving myself in mundane activities, such as assisting a family member plan a wedding.
There were so many emotions raging inside me as I watched this film. The biggest was probably hunger. Granted, when I viewed this film I was living the Sundahhhce life so all I had to eat before my 8am screening (with five hours of sleep...movie life!) was a pint of black coffee and this really crumbly dry breakfast energy bar that misled me with the words: “peanut butter”. Point being, I was starving and sleep deprived. Despite this, be forewarned: THERE IS SO MUCH FOOD in this movie and it all looks absolutely delicious. Do not plan on seeing this flick with an empty stomach or least having a dinner reservation at the ready, at your favorite restaurant immediately following the screening. Heck, you might even want to sneak some pocket foods in with you - candy is perfect, just as long as it’s not a dry-ass “peanut butter” breakfast bar.
Listen though, there is so much loveliness to talk about in this film that goes way beyond food. The food adds this other element to this story though, at least it did for me. After the trainwreck that was 2018, I found there is nothing more comforting than a huge plate of nachos. Food, especially junk food, soothes the soul. Although, we all have our own way of dealing with difficult times. This is especially true of families. When a family is burdened with lousy news everyone finds their way of grappling with it. Some will confront it head on and work through the problem. Others may run from it and deflect it by immersing themselves in other activities. Each of us manages our grief and emotions differently and this film does a wonderful job of showing the various personalities, and the way in which one mourns. It also shows that when things are getting tough, some dim sum does indeed go a long way.
The movie comes off as authentic and relatable, due to the personal connection the writer/director Lulu Wang has to the material. The story was adapted from her own experience. When discovering that her grandmother has stage-four cancer, she learns that her family has made the decision to not share this with Nai Nai. It is part of the Chinese culture to not share such information with their loved ones. It is seen as a “good lie”.
Awkwafina plays the role of the main character, Billi, a Chinese-American, which I would have to assume is based on Lulu herself. It can’t go without mentioning that Awkwafina gives an amazing performance. The only other flick I had seen her in prior is Ocean’s Eight, (another great performance by the way), although she is definitely on my radar now. I realized I need to movie Crazy Rich Asians to my watchlist too. Her portrayal of Billi truly shows her range and that she is more than just a comedic actor.
The Farewell is a tragic story that brings absolute joy. Typically when a lie is being unfolded on screen, I find myself filled with anxiety, in this case I was moved to laughter, tears and starvation.
Catch The Farewell at PFF Spring Fest this Saturday, April 13th at 2pm. Find tickets here.