Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: The Farewell

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Copyright: A24

While it may be a dreadful year for English language releases, the international releases of last year have been nothing short of excellent. Parasite is a sure-fire contender for my personal best film of that year. Pain and Glory may have been just an okay movie, but it still manages to rank higher than the majority of films to release. The Farewell is an exceptional piece from director Lulu Wang, who crafts one of the sincerest and heart-wrenching pieces from the past year. It’s nice to see that the emotion of film hasn’t been lost to the various dregs I’ve sat through, and if anything, The Farewell instils a touching clarity and confidence in me for the future of cinema. 

I wish more films could craft such a unique feeling. The idea that film can only be entertainment comes into question often, and rightly so. The Farewell isn’t anything out of the ordinary from a directing standpoint, with Wang giving a rendition of events based on moments from her life. Not so much a biopic as a loosely crafted drama with pangs of realism, there’s clear merit to the message and motivation behind the camera, but not much from a technical view. Simplistic camera shots and lukewarm basics clog up the screen, but that’s more than acceptable for a film with such a stark and engaging story. 

Awkwafina’s first leading role that doesn’t make me want to tear the hair out of my head, she takes on an abundance of difficult tasks and performs them with relative ease. She’s instantaneously engaging, dominating the majority of the screen time as she travels to China to be with her grandmother. The family gather around the grandmother, who, unbeknownst to her, has little time left to live. From there, we spend a good hour of contemplation. We unravel family drama and tension in unflinching detail. It’s a deep dive into traditional culture found within China, and how the family bonds and instincts are different to that of Western culture. At the end of it all though, it’s resoundingly comforting to know that grief is more or less identical regardless of global positioning, The Farewell tries to make this as clear and comforting as possible.  

The Farewell is a story wrapped in the bountiful layers of family. It handles the realisation of how temporary and fleeting life is with relative grace, crafting a story that’ll tug away at your heartstrings more than you’d first expect it to. Awkwafina’s leading performance holds a cast of unrecognisable yet competent actors together with a sincerely credible confidence. Hopefully there’ll be more down the line for Awkwafina, I’d hate to see them be flung into an Ocean’s 8 or Angry Birds sequel. It’d be a waste of competence, and in a time where incompetence is on the rise, it’s nice to see that there are still a few actors remaining that can perform and star with ease, grace and style.