Jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Lulu Wang’s tender and personal story is an honest look at grief and guilt, and the effects it has on a tight-knit family.
The Farewell follows Billi (played beautifully by Awkwafina) a Chinese-American woman that, after years away, returns to China in the wake of news regarding her grandmothers’ health. It’s a simple story that easily could’ve come off as melodramatic, yet with the masterful filmmaker behind the camera we’re given a heartfelt family drama that is one of the finest dramedies in recent memory. Wang seamlessly blends humor and emotion to make a film that is absolutely joyus, yet utterly heartbreaking. It’s a personal story and you can feel the personality seeping through the screen: this is Wang’s story and she embraces every quirk, every nuance that this family has to create an authentic environment with characters that feel understood. One concern I had going in was if Wang could make a personal story feel accessible to people of all cultures. Not crafting a story that only people of the Chinese heritage can relate to, as it easily could’ve been difficult for others to immerse themselves in the film if there’s nothing for them to grab a hold of. And luckily, audiences unfamiliar with the Chinese culture will still find things to relate to in this film. As the themes of family prevalent throughout the film are something everyone can gravitate toward. That goes to show how brilliantly written this film is if specific themes are able to feel universal. It causes audiences to revisit memories of the death of loved ones in their lives and causes audiences to reflect upon the conflicts in which they’ve faced with their families. Portraying the gentle and emotional side of family whilst also showing the detrimental effects of a family in crisis. Making the dynamics between the family feel authentic and familiar to everyone. The slow pacing and dense story may turn people off of this film, but there’s so much more in regards to story with its visuals. Wang packs so much within each frame, telling small stories in the background of the beautifully composed and blocked wide shots that are frequent in the film. There’s nothing overly flashy about Wang’s filmmaking, but the stationary shots she uses give off this quiet, melancholic atmosphere that most filmmakers seem to force into their films. It’s refreshing visual storytelling that not many films in the “dramedy” genre use. It’s truly miraculous to see how fantastic this turned out when so many films with ensembles always lose focus of their themes, but Wang’s tight script and direction put just the right amount of focus on every aspect to craft a beautifully paced journey that’s quirky without feeling inauthentic and emotional without treading into sentimentalism; it’s a special film that only an exciting filmmaker like Lulu Wang could’ve gifted us with. I can’t wait to see what she does in other genres.