“The Farewell,” directed by Lulu Wang, doesn’t follow a typical movie formula. I do not believe it has a high climax or leads to a resolution.
Rather, it has the essence of a documentary.
“The Farewell” follows Billi (played by Awkwafina), a Chinese American who has grown up westernized. She is unlike her family far away in mainland China; they strictly follow Chinese culture and traditions.
The movie begins with the issue: Billi’s grandma is dying, but the family decides to hide the prognosis from her. They plans a wedding in mainland China as an excuse to have the entire family gather for one last “happy” moment before the grandma passes.
This response to disillusion is a common trend in many Asian family households. Throughout the movie, Billi argues that the grandma should be told the truth while the rest of the family strictly believes that it’s better to lie so that it is not a burden for the grandma.
This is where the difference of mindset lies between the West and the East.
I, as I think most Asian American viewers will, related to almost everything about Billi. And even if you are not Asian American, you will still be able to understand the struggle of how cultural differences can be frustrating.
From having better listening than speaking skills in your native language, to not accepting the cultural differences of being an “American,” to having intense arguments at the dinner table, I could relate to Billi so much. In fact, I felt like I was watching myself in the movie from the beginning.
I will not argue who was right or wrong. But I will examine the premise of Billi’s dilemma. Was Billi wrong to not tell the grandmother she was dying, or was she right to follow Chinese culture?
In any case, Billi’s actions were motivated by what she thought was right for the family. She could’ve told the grandma and brought the truth to light. But she held back for the entire family and respected everyone’s decision by following along.
Did she agree with them? Of course not. But sometimes, sacrifices and white lies are necessary to benefit someone else.
This is where the reflection part kicks in for me.
What motivates me? Who am I lying for? If everything fails, who can I lean on? When was the last time I had a conversation with my grandma?
These simple questions kept popping out. I personally didn’t think about these questions until I saw the bond between Billi and her family.
I think every viewer will reflect on their relationship with their family while watching this movie. And I believe it is necessary for us to take a moment out of our lives to recognize the importance of our family.
With that being said, after finishing the film, I bawled in my chair.
I am not at all embarrassed to admit that. I personally think this movie is something you would watch at 2 a.m. either with your friends or by yourself, but definitely not with a family member, unless you’re the type that says “I love you” every day.
Honestly, just go. Go watch the movie. You’ll feel me.