The Farewell

Critics Consensus

The Farewell deftly captures complicated family dynamics with a poignant, well-acted drama that marries cultural specificity with universally relatable themes.

99%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 285

87%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 2,482
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Movie Info

The film follows a Chinese family who, when they discover their beloved Grandmother has only a short while left to live, decide to keep her in the dark and schedule an impromptu wedding to gather before she passes. Billi, feeling like a fish out of water in her home country, struggles with the family's decision to hide the truth from her grandmother.

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Critic Reviews for The Farewell

All Critics (285) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (281) | Rotten (4)

Audience Reviews for The Farewell

  • Aug 05, 2019
    A24 is a studio that knows how to pick and choose their films wisely. Truthfully, I believe them to be the greatest current film studio, as far as releasing consistently great content. I will always back them as a company, so when I say one of their films is terrible (if the day ever comes), it must be a pretty bad movie. The Farewell is one of their latest theatrical releases and while it may not strike a chord for everyone like it did for me, this is a genuine film from start to finish, not straying away from the characters and story it's showcasing. Directed with a lot of care and effort by Lulu Wang, The Farewell follows a family as they travel to China in order to attend a wedding, simply as an excuse to bring the family together as a goodbye for a dying family member, who they refuse to give truthful information to. The fact that this is an actual thing that goes on is kind of odd, seeing as most people usually know when doctors have given the information, but this "based on a true lie" as the film states, and it really did make for an emotionally compelling narrative. I've only really ever experienced Awkwafina as a comedic actress in films like Crazy Rich Asians or Ocean's 8, but she has now proven that dramatic work may suit her even more than comedic. The focus is on her throughout the majority of the film, as the broke, kind of immature young adult of the family, and the fact that she disagrees with this whole scenario is what brought this film home for me, making it feel relatable. The Farewell does many things right, but the number one thing is the characters surrounding the premise. This movie would have collapsed without them as the backbone.  Lulu Wang is absolutely a director that I will be keeping an eye on after her work here. Only having done one other feature film in Posthumous, The Farewell feels like a giant leap forward and I can't wait to see how her career expands. The way she has delivered such a stellar cast of characters here feels more authentic than most films out there today, especially this year. With so many big-budget films hitting cinemas, this movie feels like a giant refresher and I loved nearly every second of it. In the end, as always, hardly any films in history are flawless, but The Farewell definitely comes close. If anything, I found the movie to be a little too short, as I would have liked to explore more about what is said in the credits of the film. With that said, this is an exceptional drama that I will gladly revisit in the coming months/years. The performances alone deserve to be seen more than once. If the Oscars were being held soon, I would say Awkwafina definitely deserves some recognition. The Farewell is a great indie film that deserves more attention.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Aug 03, 2019
    his was a wonderful movie that just warmed my heart while holding to a beautiful melancholy. That is such a rare combination, and at its heights, The Farewell made me think it could have been plucked from the halcyon days of 90s indie cinema. The strange-but-true story follows an extended Chinese-American family that discovers its beloved Nai Nai (grandmother) back in China has terminal cancer. The family has elected not to tell her the devastating news and will reunite under the auspices of a grandchild hastily getting married (they've dated for only 3 months). Our protagonist is Billie (Awkwafina), a struggling New Yorker who disagrees with her family's deception. Her extended family is convinced she won't be able to keep her emotions in check, and so every scene plays with a great deal of subtext, as just about every character holds the burden of keeping a secret that deeply pains them. It makes for some pretty emotional moments, as different characters hold more meaning to their words and would-be goodbyes, but the movie is ultimately rather uplifting and winning. The matriarch of all this attention, played by Shuzhen Zao, is a bossy, compassionate, and deeply lovable old woman who welcomes her family's return. I smiled every time she affectionately referred to Billi as "stupid child" and after a while noticed my eyes were getting glassy. Awkwafini, in her first stab at dramatic acting, nicely sells her tumult with an understated grace. The characterization achieved by writer/director Lulu Wang (the real-life Billie) is generous and honest, providing worthwhile moments to the larger family and giving them perspectives so while there is conflict nothing ever gets too preachy or stagy. Speaking of that, Wang films many of her scenes with an almost static camera, allowing the scene to unfold in front of us as if we've dropped in on these people's lives. The film is about 80% Chinese subtitles but the story is really universal and deserves to be seen and celebrated. The Farewell is a terrific antidote to the summer blockbuster season and it left me thrilled to find a small little movie that could remind you again of the powerful pleasures of simple, sharply written storytelling (also stay tuned for the twist ending of the year in the credits). Nate's Grade: A
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Jul 14, 2019
    FINE CHINA - My Review of THE FAREWELL (3 1/2 Stars) The first thing you see in Lulu Wang's touching, entertaining The Farewell is a card that reads, "Based On An Actual Lie". Some of my favorite films and shows have explored the cost of lies, including All The President's Men, Election, and the recent HBO miniseries Chernobyl. Wang's film, while firmly in the popular entertainment camp, explores death and a conspiracy of lies. Still, it remains a comedic drama despite its somewhat dark premise. Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) stars as Billi, a Chinese-American writer who lives a lonely, broke existence in New York. Her parents, Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and Jian (Diana Lin) live nearby but seem worlds apart from their struggling daughter. Billi seems closest to her Grandmother called Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), who lives in China and doesn't know she's due to die from lung cancer in a few months. The family agrees that it's better that she remains ignorant of her prognosis. Instead, they cook up a premature wedding of a cousin as an excuse to gather in China to say their goodbyes. Nobody wants Billi to come, however, because she's much less capable of hiding her emotions than the rest, thus potentially blowing their ruse. It's a fine setup for a comedy of errors, but Wang, who based the film on her own experiences, digs deeper. She's interested in family dynamics, cultural differences, and that intangible quality which brings people together. Filmed mostly in Wang's hometown of Changchun, a sprawling industrial metropolis of over 7million people in Northeastern China, we enter the city through Billi's eyes as her cab takes her past one giant Communist bloc apartment building after another. Despite the drab exteriors, life bustles inside Nai Nai's home filled with her sister, Little Nai Nai (a very funny Hong Lu), her self-involved partner, and may others. Something always seems to be cooking on the stove and Nai Nai keeps active by attending medical appointments, chatting lovingly on the phone with her granddaughter, climbing her apartment stairs, or loudly practicing Tai Chi. When Billi arrives unannounced, the rest of the family, including her parents, brace themselves for their planned coverup to go awry. Clearly saddened by the impending death, Billi blames it on jet lag and checks into a nearby hotel. It's here where we meet a bellhop who can't stop asking Billi about life in America. Insisting it's different, not better or worse, the film's themes crystallize here, showing a culture that sees the value in lies. They get us through our tough days. They sometimes make things easier, or make people feel good. We're not so different in the West, especially nowadays. A standout scene between Billi and her Uncle features him hammering home the need for her to keep up the deception, the repetition of their back and forth creating a wonderfully absurdist tone. An earlier joke about bracing someone for a fall pays dividends throughout as well. The plot of the film remains quite simple. Everything leads up to the wedding, a terrific, extended 2nd Act set piece in which many drink away their problems, leaving the audience concerned if anyone will spill the beans. While moodier, more textured, and with something new to say, The Farewell sits firmly in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding camp. It resists political commentary, keeping its focus on a crowd-pleasing sensibility. Awkwafina, in her first leading role, brings a loose charm and a surprising amount of warmth to the film. I've often felt that comedians make great dramatic actors since their humor usually comes from trauma. Awkwafina certainly has the goods and made me care about her predicament. Shuzhen Zhao works beautifully with her, giving us a Grandmother full of life, opinions, and an unpredictability. Many think of life in China as an Orwellian existence, yet she shows us a vibrant, exciting side to it. I think I'd like to hang with Nai Nai for as long as possible. This duo makes us believe in the power of such relationships. Nai Nai passes something along to her Billi, which gives us its literally breathtaking final moment. The Farewell won't change cinematic language, but by opening us up to a clash of cultures we don't often get to see and by showing us the beauty of a lie, it just may change you.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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