- Gareth Crook
The Farewell (2019)
I was aware of this story before, it’s based on a true story that featured on an episode of This American Life... although it’s all a lie. The Farewell follows Billi, living in America, travelling back to China for an impromptu wedding, as an excuse to visit her dying grandmother, with only months to live, having being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Except her grandmother knows nothing of her diagnosis. The family think it’s better she stays in the dark, “It’s not the cancer that kills you, it’s the fear”. So what we have is a large family coming back together, having dispersed around the world and now learning to get along in each other’s company, whilst walking on the egg shells of the diversion they’ve agreed to create. It’s both funny, with the awkward young grandson and his girlfriend of three months, trying to feign being madly in love and heartwarming, the grandmother doting over Billi, finally having her around after talking to her on the phone in America almost every day for so many years. At its core there’s the intriguing conundrum, are they doing the right thing? It’s played as a cultural norm, but seems odd to a non-Chinese viewer and odd to Billi, having been raised in the US. That said it makes sense and Nai Nai seems so happy. There’s a wedding to plan, her family around her, it’s all positive. It does get quite difficult, watching the family bare the burden and try to suppress their emotions, but it’s fascinating all the same and more entertaining than you’d expect.