RFF14: The Farewell

Director Lulu Wang brings to Rome Film Festival a beautiful, bittersweet drama

Lulu Wang is a talented Chinese-American filmmaker, well-known for her 2014’s directorial debut Posthumous, a romantic comedy starring Brit Marling and Jack Huston. She recently returned behind the camera for her second feature film, The Farewell, a beautiful bittersweet drama which was screened at Sundance and is now participating in the Official Selection at Rome Film Festival.

Wang builds fiction around a personal life episode: Chinese-born U.S.-raised Billi finds out her beloved grandmother, Nai-Nai, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer: she has a few months to live and everyone in her family has decided not to tell her the truth. Bill, would act differently but, after accepting the will of her parents and relatives, she returns to her hometown Changchun to spend some time with her. To make Nai-Nai even happier, the family gathers with the excuse to celebrate a premature wedding before everyone goes back to their new foreign homes. To Billi this is a chance to be with her grandmother in the final stage of her life, but also to rediscover the place she left as a child: meanwhile, many things have changed even if Bill will find some joyful and painful new memories to bring with her in the United States. 

Wang’s film could be the usual long and boring drama but, being a Chinese-American who moved to the U.S. at the age of 6, really makes the difference: the director brings to the film the emotional warmth of her blood ties and the light touch of the globetrotter. In 100 minutes she delivers a delightful tragicomedy that will please many viewers around the world. 

Well-written and smartly edited, The Farewell also relies on incredible performances by Zhao Shuzhen (Nai-Nai) and rapper-turned-actress Awkwafina (Billi) who made her breakthrough debut in the comedy Crazy Rich Asians. Obviously, Wang’s film has nothing to share with the blockbuster: The Farewell is a delicate and wonderful film comforting like a hug, but light on the heart.


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