After planning to see a movie in the spur of the moment, my family and I were sorely disappointed when the movie app popped up with the message, “Sold out” for the Beatles inspired film “Yesterday.”
As it would go, we were already halfway to the theaters and still craving a good movie and the taste of buttery popcorn. This began our desperate search for a replacement and what we finally stumbled upon was one of the most heart-warming family stories 2019 had to offer, “The Farewell.”
This Chinese comedy-drama produced by the American independent entertainment company A24 was set up on the premise of what the director and writer Lulu Wang said was “an actual lie.” These simple words began the lie that brought together a family, who had moved away from home.
It was introspective on the universal themes of death and familial bonds while allowing another culture to take the spotlight. From the fried stuffed pies to the cemetery visit, there were multiple scenes and behaviors that vastly differed from the American mindset.
The problem within the story focused on how Western culture and Eastern culture perceive death and a person’s role within their community.
In a story of this caliber, where action was few and far between, it relied on other devices to capture the audience’s attention such as well-written characters, top-notch acting and artistic insight.
On the busy streets of New York City, the audience was introduced to the young, aspiring writer Billi as she called her Nai Nai — or “paternal grandmother” in English — on her way to her family’s apartment.
These first few minutes were vital, as the audience learned about the loving dynamic between the two as well as the characters and how they interacted with their different environments.
Billi guided the audience through her own conflicting morals as she questioned whether the lie was worth keeping, reflecting the crowd’s thoughts on the subject.
From the introduction of the various cast members to the ending credits, development of the characters and their various parts within the lie drove the story.
Along with the development of the plot, the cast aided in bringing the characters to life. The most prevalent actors throughout were by far Awkwafina — who played Billi and has acted in films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Ocean’s 8” — and Shuzhen Zhao — who played Nai Nai.
While comedy can be hard to tastefully incorporate in films about death, Awkwafina and Zhao kept the atmosphere perfectly balanced.
Their acting brought out both laughter and tears as the two displayed a relationship many could relate to. The bond formed between them and the portrayal of it breaks the heart.
What allowed this movie to really shine was the playful use of camera angles, the various color palettes and the perfect timing of the music.
The classical music that cuts through transitions let the audience know how Billi felt as it played during her reflective times. The jarring angles forced various perspectives while coloring added to the overall mood.
In the moments of high emotions, these three worked in tandem to create art on the big screen.
By the end of the movie, the audience was in tears and my parents were singing to the end credit music, “Senza Di Te,” or more commonly known as “Can’t Live (Without You).” The journey to Changchun, China, was an emotional ride with times of comedic relief, all based on one lie.