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The Farewell

One of the best dramas of 2019, THE FAREWELL is the perfect balance of comedy, heartfelt emotion and terrific ensemble acting.

Comedic breakout star Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) shows her dramatic abilities as Billi, a young woman who moved to America with her parents when she was 5 and sees China as a distant but fond memory.

When her treasured grandmother Nai Nai (a perfect Shuzhen Shao) receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, her entire family decides to shield her from it, simply telling her she has a cold.

The Chinese perspective that people die from fear rather than the disease somehow serves as the perfect analogy between US and old world sensibilities.

The family quickly organizes one of Billi's China cousins as engaged, so the entire family can gather in China for a wedding, that in reality, is a massive farewell for Nai Nai.

What ensues is a hilarious series of family interactions, along with conflicts and moments that break your heart.

Tzi Ma (Arrival, Veep) and Diana Lin are great as Billi's parents, who straddle the new ways of America and traditional Chinese expectations, not always comfortably. The underlying resentment from the rest of the family toward them for ever leaving provides interesting underlying conflict that's palpable.

The heart of the film is the relationship between Billi and Nai Nai. Both actresses are excellent and their bond & chemistry is powerful.

Nai Nai's sense of humor is as caustic as Don Rickles in his heyday. Her withering asides toward the bride-to-be and nearly every family member are hilarious.

I loved the entire karaoke sequence at the wedding reception. Everyone attending can go up on a stage and sing, talk or do whatever they'd like to honor the newlyweds. No one does what you'd expect. Everyone but Nai Nai knows why they are really there. It leads to some hilarious and emotional moments, but not one character did what I expected them to do. I hate predictable, this was anything but.

Writer/Director Lulu Wang saves her best for last, dropping a final 15 seconds that is so unexpected, touching and perfect that it's hard to describe and I wont touch it here.

Don't let anyone spoil it for you.

Mostly in Mandarin with English subtitles, dont let that scare you off.

The film's poster says its "Based on an actual lie". That's clever and true in every sense, just like the film. THE FAREWELL gets an A+.

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