The Williams Lake Film Club is excited to bring one of the best-reviewed films of 2019, The Farewell, to the Gibraltar Room on Friday, Dec. 6.
Directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell is a poignant look at a family grappling with shattering news. The news is this: the grandmother of the family, Nai Nai, as she’s called in Mandarin, has been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and is given a prognosis of three months to live. But based on Chinese tradition, her family decides against telling her the devastating news.
Instead, they hastily plan a wedding, giving all the extended family an excuse to travel to China to spend precious time with her and each other. While all this sounds possibly depressing, the film is anything but. It’s humorous and full of truth and emotion that never veers into sentimentality. The marvelous thing about this story is that it actually happened to Wang – she wrote the script based on her own experience with her family.
The Farewell features an outstanding ensemble cast, with Awkwafina in the lead role as Billi, Nai Nai’s American raised granddaughter, who moved with her parents to New York from China at the age of six. This is the first dramatic lead for Awkwafina, who you might know as the comedic breakout star from Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8.
Billi is shocked by the news of her grandmother, who she has kept close to via phone calls throughout her life and she is dismayed and disagrees with her family’s decision to shelter Nai Nai from the news. Nai Nai, played excellently by veteran Chinese actress Zhao Shuzen, is Chinese, Billi’s parents are in between cultures and Billi identifies as American. This is one of the major story arcs of the film – the cultural tension between Billi’s American values of individuality and truth, contrasted with her family’s traditional Chinese values of modesty and familial duty.
Another theme of the story is Billi’s experience of dislocation: she doesn’t feel fully at home in the US where she is made to feel like an outsider, but she can no longer feel truly at ease in China either, and this is expertly filmed by Wang throughout the movie. The film unravels a process, so that by the end Billi still may not concur with her family’s decision, but she can understand that the choice to shield Nai Nai from her diagnosis is another way of expressing care and love.
The Farewell premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the Audience Award, and some are speculating Awkwafina may be the first-ever South East Asian woman to garner a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards this year. Although The Farewell tells a highly specific tale of one family, everyone in the audience will be able to relate to the universal experience of living in a complex and dynamic family.
As Richard Roper writes in his Chicago Sun Times review, “[w]e recognize aspects of our own clan within the complicated, maddening, frustrating, head-butting, ridiculous, terrible, but most of all deeply moving dynamic of the extended family depicted on Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical, absolutely beautiful and memorably lovely The Farewell. This is a viewing experience to be treasured. It is one of the very best films of 2019.”
General admission tickets are $12 and student and seniors 65+ pay $10.
Advance tickets are for sale at The Open Book and will be for purchase at the door.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m.