The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang, played tug-of-war with my emotions as I felt a constant push and pull between crying and smiling! I became a part of Billi's family, empathizing with the family members because they reminded me of my own.
Based on an actual lie, The Farewell tells the story of Billi (Awkwafina), a Chinese immigrant in America, and the relationship with her grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou), who lives in China. When Billi finds out that her grandmother only has a few months left to live, Billi must grapple with the fact that her family doesn't wish to tell Nai Nai. Along with dealing with Nai Nai's imminent death, Billi struggles with her Chinese and American roots.
The power of The Farewell comes from its simplicity. The most powerful scenes are those without music or dialogue, just Billi alone with her emotions. These scenes last several seconds and act as a window into Billi's heart. Awkwafina fully transforms into her character, letting her eyes convey Billi's indescribable pain to the audience. The cinematography by Anna Franquesa and Solano assists in amplifying the effect of the actors' emotions. The camera often frames Billi in the center of the screen, whether she is amongst a sea of people or alone in her room. Each time the camera does so, I felt how the sorrow forms a small bubble around her that is only visible to the audience, especially if she is pretending to smile or laugh. Once again, there is a simplicity in the cinematography that carries power. This simplicity even extends to the music by Alex Weston. The music is comprised of only a few string instruments and a simple melody. However, every time it plays it reflects the emotions of Billi, giving me goosebumps.
My favorite part is how this movie depicts immigrant families and their struggles. Being Indian, but born and brought up in America, I found several similarities between Nai Nai and my own mother and grandmother. At certain moments, I was laughing out loud because Nai Nai says something that I have heard countless times in my own family. In this way, The Farewell brings a story that millions of American families can relate to, that is not often found in Hollywood movies.
The message is that family is precious. I give The Farewell 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. Be sure to check out The Farewell which opened in theatres nationwide July 12, 2019.
Reviewed by Sahiba K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.
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