Location: Redstone Theater
Dir. Lulu Wang. 2019, 100 mins. DCP. In English and Chinese (Mandarin) with English subtitles. With Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hond, Jiang Yongbo. A true tale based on an actual lie, Chinese-born, American-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to her hometown of Changchun to find that, although her family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai Nai, has mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai Nai herself. To assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered abroad. As Billi navigates a minefield of family expectations and proprieties, she finds much to celebrate: a chance to rediscover the country she left as a child, her grandmother’s wondrous spirit, and the ties that keep on binding even when much is left unspoken. Writer-director Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical film has an unhurried confidence that is rare in today’s cinema, reminiscent of a previous generation of independent filmmakers that favored specificity and humanity over strained universality. The Farewell is poignant and hilarious, and was an art house hit this year, and yet it succeeds without attempting to sell itself beyond the community and culture it explores.