“Chinese people have a saying: When people get cancer, they die.”Jian
Approaching death with sincerity, directness and humour, The Farewell explores a Chinese family’s decision to conceal the matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her, gathering the family diaspora together under the guise of a farcical wedding. Although filled with comedic moments (in one shot we see the family walking toward camera after maintaining the lie in a parody of the heist film cliché), Lulu Wang treats her characters with empathy in beautifully observed tender moments. We experience events primarily through the eyes of granddaughter Billi who, conflicted by her American upbringing and closeness to her grandmother, struggles to accept the cultural perspective that this knowledge is a burden for the family to bear rather than the individual. Awkwafina downplays her accessibly, shoulders hunched over even when she is not sullen. Although it’s easy to see the film as one about differing cultural approaches to death, it is really about the more universal subjects of family, loss and humanity against that backdrop.