“You think one’s life belong’s to oneself. But that’s the difference between the East and the West, a person’s life is part of a whole.”
There’s a grey area when it comes to life and death, so how do you cope with the emotions when you know the latter is fast approaching?
A little indie movie that’s based on an “actual lie” surprisingly gave me more feels than I ever expected. But, it’s impact isn’t so little. Grab your tissues; we’re all going to be crying with this one.
A July 2019 Eric Kohn article on Indiewire said that when The Farewell opened in limited release on July 12, it “beat out Avengers: Endgame (2019) for the year’s biggest per-theater average.” Holy shit, right?
The premise of The Farewell is based on a true story from director and writer Lulu Wang’s real life. When a Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live, they decide to keep her cancer diagnosis a secret, scheduling a wedding for everyone to gather before she dies.
It’s hard to imagine a real-life charade like this, but the movie asks the question: “What if the lie is good?” It’s an idea that’s probably considered cruel to Americans, but is it really?
“I felt pretty upset about it [at the time it happened],” Wang says in an interview. “And it was also just so confusing because I was sad, but then I had to kick into action to decide whether I was going to support this plan or not. And regardless of all of that, I wanted to see my grandmother. But then if I went to go see her under this ruse of a wedding, what if I couldn’t hold my emotions in? And that was something that my mother warned me about, was that I am pretty transparent about how I feel oftentimes, and she was worried that I would give away the secret.” Lulu Wang via NPR
The film is an excellent depiction of how people grieve and cope with death, and it’s also an important feat in personal storytelling, telling your story, and not conforming to Hollywood standards. When Hollywood execs wanted Wang to whitewash the cast, she had a strong opposition.
“This is too personal of a story—I couldn’t make those compromises. I was also sort of at the end of my rope with Hollywood. I was like, you know, if I can’t tell the stories that I really want to tell, then maybe I don’t want to be a filmmaker. It’s more important to put the right kinds of stories out into the world than it is for me to hold onto what that format should be.” Lulu Wang via Jezebel.
My knowledge of Chinese culture is slim at best, but this movie struck a chord with me. I couldn’t relate to the premise entirely (my grandparents died when I was very young), but I could relate to the question of how do you cope with something as tragic as death?
The movie stars viral rap/comedy/film star Awkwafina who plays Billi. Billi’s initial outrage toward the family decision to keep this massive secret probably hit home for a lot of people, especially Americans. I think this concept will resonate with both American and Chinese audiences differently, but it asks us all the same question – how do we cope?
Unfamiliar with the actress, I had no expectations, but she captured my heart with one of the rawest, most authentic performances I’ve seen all year. I’ll be damned, and surprised, if she doesn’t earn a nomination for her performance, because it’s apparent she gave it her all.
Most people I approach with this movie seem apprehensive to see it, because of the plot. Yes, it’s a sad premise, but it’s more uplifting than you’d think. Check it out and expect to be emotionally moved in the best way possible.