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Ciné Sunday: The Farewell

Lulu Wang

A heartfelt celebration of both the way we perform family and the way we live it, The Farewell masterfully interweaves a gently humorous depiction of 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. Writer/director Lulu Wang imbues The Farewell with warmth and knowing wit, while the uniformly excellent ensemble cast (anchored by a breakout performance by Awkwafina) invites us to share this extended clan’s joy and sorrow – and to feel, for the length of this remarkable film, like a part of their family.

"An uplifting tale based on a real lie..."

An uplifting tale based on a real lie, Chinese-born, American-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun to find that, although the whole family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai-Nai (TV actress Zhao Shuzhen), has been given mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai Nai herself. To assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered among new homes abroad. As Billi navigates a minefield of family expectations and proprieties, she finds there’s a lot to celebrate: a chance to rediscover the country she left as a child, her grandmother’s wondrous spirit, and the ties that keep on binding even when so much goes unspoken.

Based on a story Wang initially shared on the long-running American radio programme and podcast This American Life about her grandmother’s illness and her experience of straddling two cultures as a child of immigrants, The Farewell is universal in its celebration of family bonds, which can unite and strengthen us, often in spite of ourselves.