Showroom Cinema with Mikaela Smith
This week, a delightful film called The Farewell hits UK screens after a stunning box office performance overseas (it’s per-cinema average was actually higher than Avengers: Endgame in the USA, though it opened in far fewer cinemas), following its Audience Prize win at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film follows Billie – a young Chinese-American woman, who travels to China to visit family after learning her Grandma has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
On arrival, she discovers that her family have decided it’s best to keep the Grandmother in the dark, so decide to throw a hastily-planned wedding as a way of gathering the family around her one last time, without raising any suspicions.
Directed by Lulu Wang, it’s also an incredibly personal autobiographical drama where Wang shares her family’s own story of deceit.
Despite its complex moral grounds, this is a raw, authentic drama that has the perfect ratio of comedy and tragedy.
Following on from the successes of last year’s box office hit Crazy Rich Asians (but not comparable in any other way), The Farewell is one of reasonably few films centring the Asian-American experience.
Going beyond that though, it represents the experiences of many first- and second-generation immigrants, grappling with dual heritage and finding balance between cultural differences.
The way that The Farewell explores cultural differences also feels quietly revelatory in our era of intense political division.
In an interview with Little White Lies magazine, Lulu Wang said: “The purpose of the film is to explore how to approach differences with grace… I think that we’re living in such polarised times right now that we often look at things in black-and-white.
People are so combative -even with people that they love- and instead of asking where the other side is coming from, we immediately attack as a way to defend ourselves.”
At the core of the film is an enormous personal reckoning and an incredibly heartfelt portrait of someone learning to come to terms with things that they don’t initially agree with or fully understand.
It’s an incredibly soft and nuanced approach to a universal struggle, and it’s US (and hopefully UK) box office success shows an international openness to this kind of thoughtful approach to life’s complexities.
The Farewell is showing at the Showroom Cinema from this Friday. Witten and Directed by Lulu Wang, and starring US rapper-turned-actress Awkwafina.