Based on a Real Lie – A Review of The Farewell

Awards season is upon us, and it’s a chance for some of the best films of 2019 to be recognized. Since the Oscar nominations recently came out, a lot of people have been voicing their opinions on what was snubbed. And here I am, ready to argue in 350-500 words in a review of why the Academy snubbed The Farewell.

Directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell follows the story of Billi, a Chinese born woman, who now lives in the United States with her parents. Billi has a close relationship with her Nai Nai, who she later finds out has cancer from her parents. Everyone in the family knows that Nai Nai has cancer, except for herself. The whole family believes it’s best not to tell her and let her live the time she has left in happiness. To bring everyone to see her before she goes, they disguise their intentions with a lavish wedding for her grandson and his girlfriend. Billi reluctantly agrees to keep the secret from Nai Nai and through her journey, she learns to celebrate her Nai Nai’s spirit, the love for her country, and the dynamics of her family.

This heartwarming and beautiful film was personally and culturally specific; however, with Wang’s powerful directing and writing, it’s still universal in the depiction of a family coming together in a crisis. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and humourous as Wang weaves together surreal sorrowful moments with silly dances and drunken toasts. It also explores cultural differences between the East and West masterfully within generations without giving favour to either side. It doesn’t depend on stereotypes or cliches to get us to understand the cultural clash. The exploration allows for both parties to be heard with open minds, which is juxtaposed against the delicate argument of whether to tell Nai Nai about her cancer. It’s an intimate look into this family and their life that you become immersed in their problems, to which you think to yourself, “What would I do in this situation?”

Along with the beautiful story is a stunning performance from the large ensemble cast. The real standouts, however, are Awkafina and Zhao Shuzhen, who play Billi and Nai Nai, respectively. Awkwafina’s portrayal of Billi is some of her best acting to date as she taps into a tender and sorrowful nature of the film. She manages to portray both emotions of sorrow and happiness at the same time through a stressful situation. It’s subtle and never over the top. Matched perfectly to Awkwafina is Zhao Shuzhen. She plays off Awkwafina as the charismatic and loving grandmother whose performance will leave you smiling and crying.

Despite being one of the best films of 2019, it was snubbed at the Oscars. It deserves the best picture, best director, best lead actress, and best-supporting actress nominations. It’s a film that made people laugh, but also rip your heart out at the end. It’s sad to see the Golden Globes have only given recognition to this stunning film and provide Awkwafina’s first Golden Globe award. The Academy may not understand what this film has, but no matter as this film doesn’t need nominations to be one of the greatest films of 2019.


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