It's films like this that make me grateful for unique international voices who offer independent and genuine stories outside U.S. borders. Asian American writer-director Lulu Wang (Posthumous, 2014) entered this film in Sundance where it gained wider distribution and opened in limited release in July this year.
The Farewell is a family drama spoken partly in English and mostly in Mandarin Chinese. Whatever the language, this film is one all people can relate to. When a Chinese family learns their grandmother has a short time to live, nobody tells her. Instead, the family plans a wedding for everyone to be together before the grandmother dies while protecting their matriarch from any emotional distress. Following a popular Chinese tradition, all the family members are dutiful in carrying out this lie...except for one skeptical granddaughter. Beautifully crafted dialogue paints a vivid portrait of complicated family relationships as a younger generation starts questioning established customs from the past. It also presents the broad simple questions of, "How does a family show love for each other?" and "How is familial love translated across multiple generations?"
A big revelation from The Farewell is the sensitive and vulnerable performance by Asian American actress Awkwafina (Ocean's Eight, 2018) who has become a rising name in Hollywood through mainly comedic roles....so far. Everyone should see The Farewell. Like other foreign language films, such as A Separation (2011) from Iran, Capernaum (2018) from Lebanon, and Shoplifters (2018) from Japan, this film reminds viewers that other countries may have different religious cultures or different governments that can conflict with ones in the U.S., but family frustrations and family love are universal. We're all equally human, and we're all deserving of love and family.