Asian-Amercian filmmaker Lulu Wang takes her recent screenplay to the big screen and directs a very personal story in her feature-length film The Farewell. A delightfully, insightful commentary on a close-knit Asian family and the cultural norms that confine them from truth-telling.
In a question and answer session about the film Wang reveals that the basic premise and several scenes in the film are representative of some of her own experiences growing up in two different cultures. Wang uses some of the differences and similarities children have to grapple with when they have learned to live in a different culture than their ancestors. Wang also addresses the difficulties an older generation has with an ever changing world that is often confusing.
Solely devoted to the protection of each family member, Wang explores cultural expectations, realities, mixed with love and devotion, in spite of different belief systems, to figure out what is respectful and honorable within the family-clan.
Wang states, "The Farewell is a celebration of both the way we perform family and the way we live it." She adds that with the depiction of the films gentle humor, "We see that a good lie in action with a thoughtful exploration of how our cultural heritage does and does not travel with us when we leave our homes." Wang wants us, the film audience, to feel like part of this Asian family thus uses an all-star Asian cast (Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo) including the break-out role from Awkwafina and draws us all into the lies that bind. The clan's joys and sorrows make a lasting impression and forces us to reminisce upon our own heritage and family ties.
A young New York Asian-American writer, Billi (Awkwafina) has a very special relationship with her Dad's mom who lives in China. The two communicate at least once a week by phone Conversing half the time in Chinese and half the time in English. Billi's Grandma is the matriarch of the family and holds-on to her role with pride and confidence. Grandma's sister reports to the entire family-clan that Grandma has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer but she refuses to tell Grandma. Their culture doesn't allow bad news of illnesses to be told to the elderly. The news could potentially alter the happiness of the sickly. Billi has a problem with her Grandma not being told of her situation and wants to tell her but understands the cultural divide that will not allow the truth to be revealed. But, Billi can not keep a secret!
In order to return to China for one last reunion with Grandma before her passing (which could be at any time) the whole clan returns to China for the fake wedding of Billi's cousin. The scenario is perfect for everyone to reunite, rekindle old bonds and say their last good-byes to Grandma without her knowing anything is amiss. Until Billi shows up after being told by her parents she is not allowed to attend the wedding. A comedy of errors unfold as the rebellious Billi must choose how she will love, honor and cherish the family matriarch in the days that follow that could very well be the last encounter the two experience.