From left, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou) and Billi (Awkwafina) 

The Farewell’ is a film based on an actual lie. 

The film is written and directed by Lulu Wang and stars Awkwafina as Billi.  


Awkwafina in "The Farewell." 

Billi is a young woman and aspiring writer who lives in New York City. She and her parents immigrated to America from China when she was six years old.

One day, her mother tells her that Hao Hao, Billi’s cousin, is getting married to a girl he has been dating for only three months. The whole family will be coming back to China for a reunion.

However, it is soon revealed that the wedding is just a front. In reality, Billi’s grandmother Nai Nai has been diagnosed with lung cancer. The wedding is an excuse for the whole family to see Nai Nai one last time and say their farewells.

Everyone knows what’s happening to Nai Nai. Well, except for Nai Nai. This is because in China there’s a saying that it’s not the cancer that kills someone, it’s the fear.

“The Farewell” plays with an interesting dynamic of knowing that a loved one will be passing soon but also knowing there is nothing you can do about it.

Nai Nai is happy and enjoying her family being back together in China for the first time in years but doesn’t know the reality of her condition. She thinks she just didn’t fully recover from a cold she had a while ago. However, the rest of the family knows the truth but is trying their best to act like nothing is wrong.

The film showcases the importance of being grateful for the moment and enjoying the company of one another, even if circumstances aren’t ideal.

The majority of the dialogue is in Mandarin with English subtitles on screen.

However, it is still easy to follow along with the story.

The film is categorized as a drama comedy. The biggest takeaway from the film is that it is incredibly real. The dialogue seems so genuine.

The family was very believable as well and Nai Nai acted like an actual grandmother. A lot of family scenes would be relatable to most families, no matter their cultural background.

It’s a comedy in the sense that it finds humor in everyday things. “The Farewell” is definitely not a slapstick comedy, and it really shouldn’t be. The humor comes from quirky things the family does, like how awkward Hao Hao and his fiancé are or from how relatable Billi is when interacting with her family.

Awkwafina is known for playing comedic roles in films like “Oceans 8’ and “Crazy Rich Asians.” In “The Farewell she still has her classic, Awkwafina witty lines that make you laugh. But, we see a more serious side of the actor, and it felt genuine. It didn’t feel like a comedy actor was just playing a serious role.
Visually, the film was amazing. It had a variety of creative shots that always kept your eyes glued to the screen.

 It also took advantage of the characters and the setting to help make it feel more genuine and less like a movie. When two characters are talking on screen, you can see the other members of the family interacting in the background just like a real family would. 

Throughout the movie you are wondering what will happen to Nai Nai and if anyone in the family will tell her about her condition. The story ties you in and keeps your attention the whole way through. 

The film really captures what it’s like to deal with a loved one being sick, and not really being able to do much other than to be there for them. The thing that stuck out the most was how relatable the film is. Most people who have dealt with a loss due to illness know the feeling of trying to stay positive for that person. The film perfectly reflects that with the twist of keeping it a secret from Nai Nai. 

If you’re looking for a film that will make you laugh and smile but also pull at your heartstrings and maybe make you cry, "The Farewell" is the film to watch. It is currently playing in select theaters, as it is an international film. However, it will be available to download digitally soon. 

ANDREA RICKER is Features Editor The Vidette. She can be contacted at arricke@ilstu.edu. Follower her on Twitter at @ricker_andrea

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