A wedding obscures the true inspiration for a family reunion.
Lulu Wang has turned an amusing family story into an “incredibly satisfying” film, said Emily Yoshida in NYMag.com. Rising star Awkwafina plays the writer-director’s stand-in, a Brooklynite named Billi who returns to her homeland after learning that her Chinese grandmother (the “charmingly zingy” Shuzhen Zhou) has terminal cancer. The family is keeping Nai Nai in the dark—a common tradition, we’re told—and a wedding has been arranged as a cover for a family reunion. It’s a hooky premise, but Wang transcends it; her wry sophomore feature “feels like the work of a seasoned auteur some 40 films into her career.” Awkwafina, the brash scene-stealer from Crazy Rich Asians, is superb here, delivering a “carefully pitched” performance that “accesses the tender and sorrowful energy of the film,” said Richard Lawson in VanityFair.com. The movie’s “sharply bittersweet” finale is followed by a revelation “sure to keep people talking,” said Eric Kohn in IndieWire.com. Instead of siding with the family members hiding the truth or with Billi and her urge to reveal it, The Farewell “suggests that by bringing them all together,” Nai Nai “gets the last laugh either way.” ■