The Farewell Review

26 Jul

Anyone can probably find something in this film to connect with, but make no mistake: at its core, it is a story about an Asian American’s experience, written and directed by an Asian American woman. To say that it is merely about family is vague to the point of being inaccurate, because the dynamics of what constitute a family are vastly different when it comes to immigrant parents. If you have that experience, you know what I’m talking about: the push and pull between cultures, the shame of feeling like an outsider in both your own skin and your “American” community, and sometimes even the outright rejection of certain parts of your identity. All of that is laid bare on screen here, handled with pure and tender care by Lulu Wang.

The script is simple, the tightest of the year but also the one bursting with the most emotion (and comedy). On a pure storytelling front, immigrant families and first generation kids serve up heaping piles of internal and external conflict on a silver platter. Add onto that the inherent fascination that comes with the premise (a remarkably common occurrence that actually happened in my own family), and you’ve got a killer recipe. Where Wang shines is in her blocking and acute understanding of subtext – she doesn’t even have 100 minutes to tell this story and to envelop us in this large family, but so much is packed into each scene that it works. You can tell where everyone stands just by looking at how he or she reacts in the background, how years of frustration and misunderstanding and difference simmer between each family member. Case in point is a dinner table argument that’s among the best scenes of the year.

If A24 would take a pause from guzzling Midsommar for just a second, it’d realize what an absolute gem it has on its hands. It’s not meant to hold the mantle of Asian cinema – it’s meant to make the rickety bridge between Western and Eastern cultures just a bit more intact. It is imbued with western values and with the stylistic sensibilities of the white, indie film crowd, but it conveys a genuine love and respect for Chinese culture and values. It presents it as it is: the language, the food, the people, the country. Without judgment and without any compromise of authenticity.

And maybe most importantly, it is in love with parents and children, generations of them that make sacrifices so that their kids and their kids can have some semblance of a good life. It documents the struggles that immigrant parents feel, of having worked so hard so that their kids can have the stability they didn’t have, so that their kids can thrive in the supposed land of opportunity. And when their kids struggle, there’s a deep-seated pain and helplessness that results, derived in part from their own insecurities and misunderstandings, and in part from believing in their kids to the moon and back. There are many sons and daughters out there, who are fortunate to have parents who unconditionally love them, who recognize that struggle in their parents – and regardless of how much conflict and frustration there has been, they unconditionally love back. That is the story of The Farewell, and so many others.

GRADE: A-

4 Responses to “The Farewell Review”

  1. Keith July 26, 2019 at 10:08 am #

    Still hasn’t opened anywhere around me. So frustrating!

    • polarbears16 July 26, 2019 at 12:13 pm #

      I think they’re opening wider since it’s been doing so well, hopefully you get to see it soon!

  2. Ricardo July 28, 2019 at 4:39 pm #

    Damn bears, was not interested in this at all since some of the reviews I’d read had made it seem political, and by God 🤮🤢
    But this sold me! I’ll be sure to catch it now.

    • polarbears16 August 6, 2019 at 9:11 am #

      Looking forward to your thoughts! I wouldn’t say it’s political, not sure what they mean by that.

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