Daily Recco, July 19: The Farewell that's more than a goodbye
Is a "good lie" worth the burden on an entire family? The Farewell tells you it is and how. A heartwarming, sad and funny saga of families, relationships, and collectivism versus individualism.
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Who doesn’t like feel-good movies and if we begin the week with one, the hope is that the whole week goes that way.
In that series, today we bring you Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (2019).
The Farewell is a heart-warming account of struggling New York-based artist Billi (excellent portrayal by Awkwafina), who is visiting her grandmother in China under the guise of a family wedding. Why the cover, you ask? The grandmother has terminal cancer but does not know of it.
The film opens with “Based on an actual lie”, and that sets the premise. The family does not want to give Nai Nai (played by Shuzhen Zhao) any spoilers — and we mean actually spoil her remaining last days. So they decide not to tell her that she has Stage IV lung cancer and less than three months to live. Billi is conflicted, but the family convinces her of the collectivism that allows the family to bear the emotional burden, rather than Nai Nai herself — a stark contradiction with the individualistic values of the Western culture that Billi has internalised. And then comes the bowler: Nai Nai had similarly lied to her husband when he was terminally ill.
What begins with a harmless lie (or as the doctor calls it — “a good lie”), soon snowballs into an elaborate plan that includes a fake wedding for Billi’s cousin so that the family has an excuse to come together, to say their goodbyes to the grandmother. The wise Nai Nai is at her hilarious best in the wedding sequences (and otherwise), even as the family ensures everything is in order to not let her know of her illness. Nai Nai has some life lessons for Billi (that we all could benefit from) and Billi finally says her emotional goodbye before leaving.
The story is semi-autobiographical, based on the director’s life. Ironically, the woman based on Nai Nai’s character was still alive when the movie was released — six years after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
You will cry even as you smile, and find joy in small events and gestures as the family copes with the tragedy. The bond of the family and the willingness to bear the loved ones’ burdens and the subtle sadness shrouded by comic sequences makes The Farewell a worthy watch.
Start your week on this lovely note by streaming the movie on Amazon Prime.