The Farewell (2019)

Director: Lulu Wang

Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo

Screenplay: Lulu Wang

100 mins. Rated PG for thematic material, brief language and some smoking.

 

I’ve been looking forward to The Farewell for half a year, ever since hearing about it from someone who saw it at Sundance. I’m so happy to have been able to seek it out finally, and you need to do the same.

When Billi (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight) discovers that her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) has terminal lung cancer, she immediately wants to fly back to China to be with her, but her father Haiyan (Tzi Ma, Arrival, Skyscraper) and mother Jian (Diana Lin, Australia Day, TV’s The Family Law) advise her not to. They tell Billi that Nai Nai does not know she is sick and the family does not plan on telling her. Instead, everyone is flying to China for a family wedding, which has been set up as a cover for everyone to get their goodbyes in, but Billi’s parents think she is too emotional and she will not be able to keep up the lie. Billi decides to fly to China anyway in an effort to spend some time with Nai Nai before she passes, but she struggles to come to terms with the lie and the way her family goes about keeping the secret.

The Farewell moves along a little loosely in order to focus on moments of the days leading up to the wedding rather than big plot points. It’s a deeply moving character piece from writer/director Lulu Wang (Posthumous, Touch), and it is indeed based on an actual lie from Wang’s experiences. It’s an incredibly interesting look at culture and familial bonds across generations and traditions. I found it to be a very melancholic and comedic look at these bonds, never sinking into depression but also not forcing comedy. The funny moments in the story come from the interesting multi-dimensional characters and their strained relationships.

Awkwafina gives a career-best performance as Billi. The way she juggles sadness and joy while dealing with her own internal struggle is so powerful. Her chemistry with Nai Nai is so beautifully created through Wang’s writing and executed by the actresses quite well.

I adore Tzi Ma, and he really shines here. I really enjoyed his connection to daughter Billi in that he knows the importance of this lie but also involuntarily struggles with keeping the façade of joy that the wedding should invite. He is amazing in the film and I hope he can get some awards recognition this year.

The rest of the supporting cast is exemplary here, especially Zhao Shuzhen and Jiang Yongbo (Nie Rongzhen, Caught in the Web). Everyone is so well-cast in the film and each of them gets their moment to shine in the movie.

The Farewell is definitely in my Top 10 of the year so far. I cannot wait to see it again and to show it to as many people as I can. This examination of family and culture is so beautifully constructed and so watchable. The movie just cruises by and brought me tears and laughter at several points, sometimes even at the same time. This is a huge recommendation.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2017oscardeathrace] Arrival (2016)

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]

IMDb Top 250: #143 (as of 1/24/2017)

 

Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) is essentially on one hell of a streak as a director. He has, time and time again, come to the table with an excellent film, the latest being last year’s Arrival.

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Louise Banks (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Nocturnal Animals) remembers exactly where she was when they arrived. Large ships at several strategic points around the globe have come to a stop, floating a few stories off the ground. Louise is asked by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker, Platoon, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) to come aboard a team tasked with establishing first contact with the extraterrestrials. She is brought to Montana and meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, Captain America: Civil War), a theoretical physicist. As tensions arise from other groups stationed around the world, Louise and Ian must work quickly to ascertain why the beings have come to Earth while also avoiding putting the planet’s safety in further jeopardy.

It’s hard to talk too much about Arrival without coming across spoilers, but I’ll try my best. Simply put, Arrival is the best science fiction film of the year and one of the best of all time, but it’s also much more than that. Arrival is the story a mother. It’s the story of a relationship between a mother and her daughter. Yes, there are aliens, and yes, there’s a lot to breathe in, but thanks to Villeneuve’s masterful work behind the camera and Adams’ affecting and powerful work in front of it, Arrival stands as one of the more captivating experiences you are likely to see.

The visuals of the film are incredible, due in no small part to Director of Photography Bradford Young, a name many in the film community have come to love after this and other previous work. His upcoming work on the Han Solo Star Wars film have put many a fanboy at ease on the shaky project. Coupled with the excellent sound design for the film, Arrival’s merits come to much more than just acting but rather a true cinematic experience.

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I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Arrival is absolutely incredible from start to finish. If you missed this film in theaters, it is coming out on home video soon so do not hesitate this time. Arrival stands as a simple tale of love and family while also being a complex and weaving story that doesn’t dumb itself down for its audiences, trusting them to come to the incredible revelations it offers. The one flaw I had was that I came to the conclusion perhaps before I was supposed to, but it didn’t hamper my experience too much to come out breathless. See this film before it is ruined for you.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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