Grandma said, lying is a sin. But, what happens if we have to lie for the good of Grandma herself? That’s the outline of the story of The Farewell, a comedy drama filmed by director Lulu Wang.
In detail, The Farewell tells the story of Billi (played by Awkwafina+ who is trapped in a ‘structured, systematic and massive lie’ directed at his grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao). Billi’s parents asked her to lie to Nai Nai that she was fine despite the medical record saying cancer.
Billi, as a mere grandson of wayang, initially rebelled. According to her, Nai Nai has the right to know the actual conditions. However, later she was forced to change her mind after learning that the lies are part of habit, not will. In China, lying to parents about their health condition is common.
“There is a saying in China, when someone has cancer, it’s not cancer that kills him. The thing that killed him was fear, “said Billi’s mother, Lu Jian (Diana Lin). Games Online dan Offline
What followed was a series of lies after lies to deceive the grandmother. In fact, Billi’s uncle, Haibin (Yongbo Jiang), even pretended to marry off his son, Hao Hao (Chen Han), with his girlfriend, Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara), just to distract Nai Nai. Even so, Billi was not sure she would be able to lie to the end.
The Farewell is one of the best comedy dramas at the end of 2019. The quality arises from Lulu Wang’s ability to package the differences between western and eastern cultures and internal conflicts that often occur in large families, especially Chinese families.
Like the common view that develops in society, Westerners are more open and straightforward in expressing opinions, emotions, or truth. Meanwhile, eastern people, more closed, more restrained in doing the same thing. Well, the contrast situation is displayed in a balanced way, like Yin and Yang, by Lulu Wang.
The western view is represented by Billi who grew up in New York, United States. Meanwhile, the eastern view was represented by Billi’s father, mother, uncle, aunt, and other relatives. With a playful style that is not exaggerated, throughout the film both sides clash about what is best for Nai Nai: Lies or truth.
Lulu Wang did not make one side of The Farewell. As said before, on both sides of the draw, nothing is completely right or wrong. For example, even though Billi urged her family to reveal Nai Nai’s true condition, she was not prepared to take responsibility for the effects. Meanwhile, Billi’s parents and relatives do not know how long they can continue to lie.
Balancing both sides is a good decision from Lulu Wang. By making both views equally strong, the conflict in The Farewell’s story becomes more dynamic. On the other hand, it also forces the audience to empathize with both sides, not support one and blaspheme the other.
How complicated the interaction within a large family is also displayed by director Lulu Wang neatly. So neat, those interactions feel real and can cause déjàvu. Certainly familiar to (some of us) how family gatherings often end in chatter about marriage or who is the most successful. Well, all that is in The Farewell with a portion that does not take over the main story.
Beyond the story factor, praise should be given to Awkwafina. She was able to display the conflict within Billi perfectly. On the one hand, we can see how much she loved Nai Nai, more than anyone. On the other hand, it was clear that she too was dying to hold back in her plans to deceive Nai Nai. False happiness and inner torment brought Billi into the emotional roller coaster and Awkwafina showed it perfectly.
Finally, The Farewell is a skit that should not be missed, especially the audience who have a Chinese family background. Lulu Wang managed to make a witty and weighty film. It’s no exaggeration to call The Farewell a study of communication between culture and subjects of Chinese families in China and America.