‘The Farewell’: An authentic Chinese immigrant story
In an era where bilingual films are becoming ever more mainstream, Lulu Wang’s comedy-drama film ‘The Farewell’ (2019) stands out for its portrayal of the eastern and western immigrant experience and the clash that exists between valuing the group as opposed to the individual.
Based on real events in Wang’s life, ‘The Farewell’ follows Billi, played by Awkwafina, a Chinese American immigrant who discovers that her grandmother (Nai Nai) has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. To Billi’s surprise, her family decides to keep the cancer secret from her grandmother, with the belief that telling her will dramatically speed along her illness. A wedding is planned in China as a guise for the family to reunite and Billi joins, torn between her wish to be honest with her grandmother and her family’s Chinese cultural beliefs.
‘The Farewell’ is a welcome addition to films in Hollywood with Asian/American representation, significant among films such as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (2018) and the Netflix success ‘Always Be My Maybe’ (2019). In an interview with online news site Deadline, Wang notes the importance of Asian representation becoming more mainstream, particularly for writers and directors, stating:
“As long as I’m making something from my voice, from my perspective there will be Asian American content because I am the storyteller.”
Pictured (left): Awkwafina and Lulu Wang, courtesy of deadline.com
‘The Farewell’ and its carefully crafted storytelling has been praised worldwide, scoring a 98% critic and 87% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Clarisse Loughrey of the Independent (UK) praising the film for being a “comedy of warmth and bracing honesty.”
But what sets ‘The Farewell’ apart from other films?
Is it the authentic settings and performances? The fascinating cultural clash between east and west mentalities? Or the emotional and vibrant musical score that masterfully blends classical and contemporary sounds?
With ‘The Farewell’ all of these details are used to create something unique and poignant to the Chinese-immigrant experience of culture and family. Wang has noted herself that she was often lost as a writer, torn between her Chinese and American identity, and that ‘The Farewell’ helped her to find her voice, as it promises to do for many more Chinese creators and performers.
Watch the trailer below: