A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Billi struggles with her family's decision to keep grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time.
Spend as much time with your loved ones as you can while you can
The Farewell is a bittersweet Chinese tragicomedy that has the potential to become an Academy Award winner for Best International Feature Film. The movie revolves around an elderly Chinese lady who suffers from an incurable cancer. Her sister however hides this information from her and instead tries to bring all the family together for one last time. A hastily arranged wedding between a grandson and his Japanese girlfriend serves as purpose for the family members abroad to come back to Changchun. However, the burden of this lie is heavy and conflicts, confusion and misunderstandings soon occur.
The most interesting question about this movie is how you would deal with a situation such as the one portrayed in this film if someone close to you were concerned and how you would like to be treated if you were in a similar situation yourself. The family members in this film try to carry the burden together and decide to not tell the aged grandmother that she is dying. There is no right way to deal with such a difficult decision. If you hide the truth, you might prevent the other person to live every day as if it were the last day and to say farewell. If you tell the truth, you will cause an immense emotional burden to the concerned person who will live in fear of dying every single day. The Farewell offers much food for thought and also shows how differently Western and Eastern cultures approach such a scenario.
The acting performances in this film are outstanding. Every character has its own identity from the drunk war veteran who was in love with the elderly lady over the chubby grandchild who is addicted to technology to the deaf housemate who is the only one to mind his own business. Lead actress Nora Lum convinces as concerned granddaughter who disagrees with her family's strategy of hiding the truth from her grandmother and who also has some financial and social problems of her own. Shuzhen Zhao steals the show in her very first movie as headstrong elderly lady with a heart of gold.
The movie portrays the differences between Western and Eastern cultures cleverly and also portrays how the Chinese society is changing. People have become greedy capitalists looking for financial opportunities abroad but also try to embrace their ethnic heritage at the same time. Changchun has developed from a rather small city with less than a million citizens to a gigantic city with close to eight million citizens in only fifty years. The movie shows how gigantic buildings and monuments have replaced small houses and gardens.
The Farewell also has alight-hearted side and manages to cheer its audience up despite numerous heartbreaking moments. The subtle humour works very well and includes drunk war veterans declaring their romantic feelings, hilarious karaoke performances during the wedding and several running jokes in form of the careless deaf housemate and the disconnected overweight grandson.
In the end, The Farewell is an emotional tragicomedy with a profound message: to spend as much time with your loved ones as you can while you can. As someone who is living abroad and far away from his family, I can truly empathize with the movie's meaningful message. Give this movie the chance to inspire your brain and warm your heart.
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