The Farewell is a thought-provoking film bursting with such heart yet teeming with such realism that it will leave audience members shattered. Lulu Wang has crafted a beautiful narrative tackling the questions surrounding our mortality. Are we honoring our loved ones by preparing them for death? Is it wise for families to carry that burden for a loved one so they can live their best life for however long they may have? At times it felt Wang was attempting to answer these weighty questions, but in reality, there is no right answer.
The strength of the film falls in the writing and the ensemble. Wang’s narrative perfectly captures the dichotomy of families who are dealing with a loved one who is ill. The ensemble nailed those “tense” moments, especially when they were all out to eat and they criticizing Billi’s family for living in America and not being around Nai Nai. What stood out to me were the performances of Akwafina (who plays Billi) and Shuzen Zhao (Nei-Nei). Each actor gave career-defining performances which will likely garner much discussion around award season (especially Shuzen Zhao). Seeing these two on-screen at times broke me, but it was a good hurt.
Anna Frenquesa Solano’s cinematography captured the serenity and beauty that is often found in Chinese architecture. She deftly managed to use close-ups to capture the more emotional moments in the film. Alex Weston’s score was dripping with such beauty and managed to perfectly capture the balance between love and sorrow that we often feel when a loved one is facing a terminal illness.
Overall, The Farewell is a work of art. The film embodies such beauty and brings into focus a topic most would rather avoid. The film is extremely relatable as most everyone who is reading this review knows someone who has been touched by Cancer. I am currently dealing with both my mother and aunt battling different forms of cancer. I saw a little bit of myself in each of those family members. It’s never easy. The Farewell puts that into perspective beautifully.