Home » Media »  The Farewell

The Farewell


Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "East is east and west is west," observed Rudyard Kipling, "and never the twain shall meet." Anyone doubting the ongoing applicability of that observation should see writer-director Lulu Wang's moving film "The Farewell" (A24).

The story, based on Wang's own personal experiences, centers on her stand-in, young Chinese American aspiring writer Billi (rapper Awkwafina). With the rent past due and a letter of rejection from the folks who dole out Guggenheim Fellowships arriving in the mail, Billi's prospects don't seem bright. But much worse news is on the way.

Reluctantly, Billi's parents, affectionate but semi-alcoholic dad Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and endlessly demanding mom Jian (Diana Lin), tell Billi that her much-loved grandmother (Shuzhen Zhou) -- known by her Chinese title, Nai Nai -- has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. They also inform Billi that they, along with the rest of her relatives, intend to keep the dying woman in the dark about her condition.

Though such concealment is customary in China, Billi vehemently disagrees with it, believing it to be both immoral in principle and unfair to Nai Nai. The resulting family tension simmers under the surface as the extended clan gathers in the city of Changchun, ostensibly for the hastily arranged wedding of Billi's cousin, Hao Hao (Chen Han), but in reality to have a last visit with their strong-willed yet kindly matriarch.

Wang skillfully lightens her thoughtful drama by combining it with a comedy of manners. One of the characters whose foibles she conveys is Nai Nai's elderly male apartment mate, who remains oblivious to the conflicts unfolding around him and shows more interest in food than people. Though the nature of Nai Nai's relationship with him is not made clear, passion seems unlikely to be an ingredient in it.

On the eve of the nuptials, Billi's family gather at the grave of Nai Nai's husband and place food and other items on it for his use in the afterlife. While culturally interesting, the scene is not calculated to pose a threat to anyone's Judeo-Christian faith.

Beyond these aspects of the plot, the potentially objectionable material in Wang's script consists of a single lapse into vulgar language and some discussion about the hurried pace at which Hao Hao and his fiancee are tying the knot. So this delicate tale, with its deep insights and rich emotions, is probably acceptable for mature adolescents. Mostly in Mandarin. Subtitles.

The film contains nonscriptural religious practices, possible cohabitation, at least one crude term and brief mature references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

- - -

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

- - -

CAPSULE REVIEW

"The Farewell" (A24)

Cultural difference lead to family tension as a young Chinese American aspiring writer (rapper Awkwafina) learns that her much-loved grandmother (Shuzhen Zhou) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and that her parents (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin), along with her other relatives, intend to keep the dying woman in the dark about her condition, a decision with which she vehemently disagrees. As the clan gathers in the city of Changchun, ostensibly for the hastily arranged wedding of the protagonist's cousin (Chen Han), but in reality to have a last visit with the matriarch, writer-director Lulu Wang, basing her film on personal experiences, skillfully lightens her thoughtful drama by combining it with a comedy of manners. The delicate result is deep in insight and rich in emotion. Probably acceptable for mature adolescents. Mostly in Mandarin. Subtitles. Nonscriptural religious practices, possible cohabitation, at least one crude term, brief mature references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

- - -

CLASSIFICATION

"The Farewell" (A24) -- Catholic News Service classification, A-III -- adults. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

Submit a Letter to the Editor


Comment

Comments Policy