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Review: The Farewell

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Caught an early morning screening of The Farewell at Angelika Film Center. While stories about death tend to be fairly somber affairs (for obvious reasons), this understated drama—which revolves around a Chinese family’s decision to conceal its elderly matriarch’s terminal cancer diagnosis, using a hastily-arranged marriage as an excuse to get everyone together for a final goodbye—manages to find moments of humor and happiness in its otherwise grim subject matter. From brothers bickering over whether or not it’s appropriate to offer cigarettes to the soul of a man that quit smoking before he died to the comically off-key karaoke at the extraordinarily awkward wedding reception, the laughs come frequently, albeit through heavy tears. And although the characters’ repeated insistence that the movie’s central lie is beneficial remains… debatable, to say the least, the deception does ultimately facilitate some joyful reconnections and reconciliations. Director Lulu Wang wisely avoids excessive stylistic flashiness, instead allowing the performances to speak for themselves, thus creating a more nuanced, authentic, and emotionally honest cinematic experience.

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