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A-Ron’s New Movie Reviews: The Farewell

If “The Farewell” Is Playing At A Theater Near you, Go Out Right Away & See It! Writer & Director Lulu Wang Assembles One Of The Best Ensemble Casts Of The Year, While Rapper & Actress Awkwafina Delivers One Of The Most Endearing & Impactful Performances Of The Year. Lulu Wang’s Script Is Well Structured & is Absolutely Beautiful & Memorable. It Won’t Take Much Time To Realize How Special The Movie Is As It’s One Of The Very Best Films Of 2019.

I’m just going to go right out and say it. If you have “The Farewell”, playing at a theater near you go and see it! Take your brother, sister, mom & dad, grandma & grandpa, aunty & uncle. Take your whole family to a viewing experience that will surely be treasured. “The Farewell” is one of the very best films of 2019.

“The Farewell” as we’re told on the films poster and at the start of the film that it is “based on an actual lie”. Based on the life of writer and director Lulu Wang, the based on an actual lie premise comes from an incident in 2013, when Wang’s Nai Nai (nickname for her: paternal grandmother) was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. When a diagnosis like this is made, the Chinese law doesn’t require the doctors to give such news directly, and their culture actually encourages family to not disclose that kind of information to the patient/family member. Thus this is where “The Farewell” begins as a bittersweet, sweet, hilarious web of lies to keep Nai Nai, the family matriarch, in the dark while giving everyone a chance to say their goodbyes.

Even though “The Farewell” is about a Chinese family and set mostly in China, no matter where you are in the world you can recognize aspects of all of our own families within the maddening, head-butting, hilarious, wonderful and the loving dynamic of the extended family depicted in writer and director Lulu Wang’s autobiographical cinematic take on her family. “The Farewell” is easy to have you identifying with at least one of the major characters and nodding in recognition regardless of your background, race and culture. 

Actor and rapper Awkwafina, who owned every scene she was in as the comic relief in “Crazy Rich Asians” plays Billi, the fictional doppelganger for Lulu Wang. A Chinese-born but raised in America, 30 year old who has remained close with her Nai Nai (an incredible performance by Zhao Shuzhen) through constant phone conversations. When Billi finds out, she is devastated by the news about Nai Nai and strongly disagrees with the family’s decision not to tell Nai Nai about her condition.

Awkwafina has a unique way of delivering her lines, and an onscreen persona that really pops. She disappears into the character and her range as an actress goes far beyond what we have seen from her, in her short time in the movies. Here she does her best work in a natural, empathetically, sweetly and funny performance. She delivers one of the most effective, endearing and impactful performances of the year. Her performance is so raw and authentic.

As tremendous as Awkwafina is in this movie, it’s easy for Zhao Shuzhen To often steal the show as the lovable, warm, sharp-tongued and direct Nai Nai. Shuzhen is so effortless in her performance, she is delightful and heartwarming in her American film acting debut, and she will win your heart with her sweetness and warmth. When Awkwafina and Shuzhen are on screen together, the screen crackles and their chemistry is nothing short of perfect. 

Wang’s writing is well structured as the family members and their inter-relationships are fully fleshed-out. Each character gets their moment to shine and Wang’s brilliant script reveals truths and does it with a light-heartedness and humor that cuts through the heavy subject matter. Wang’s humor or her characters aren’t sitcom figures. Her humor is charming and special, included in one of many scenes when the family visits the grave of a departed loved one. The family armed with many of the things he enjoyed in life, as they get into a heated discussion about whether or not to give him a cigarette, even though he’s dead.

Wang keeps things simple and flowing like a gentle stream, she takes her time unfolding the story but it pays off in a deeply moving conclusion. “The Farewell” doesn’t have the kind of narrative with twists and turns or huge confessions that you may find in other films of this genre. “The Farewell” is comprised of one of the best ensembles of the year, it’s absolutely beautiful and memorable as it won’t take much time to realize how special this movie is. 

GRADE: ★★★★★(5 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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