How do you say goodbye to someone without telling them you are saying goodbye? That is the enigma in the center of The farewell, the new film (and the sensation of Sundance) of the writer and director Lulu Wang. This seemingly cruel absurdity is one that she also faced in real life. As he told for the first time in his history of 2016 for This American lifeA few years ago, her beloved grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and when she traveled to China to see her for the last time, her parents and extended family pressured her not to mention the disease. The clan decided it was better not to tell Grandma: in the movie, a character warns that if cancer does not kill her, the fear of doing so will do so. The lie quickly metastasized. Another grandson, whose family had emigrated to Japan, was convinced to organize a fast wedding in China so that the relatives of the grandmother had an excuse for a meeting. From the outside, this subterfuge seems the worst kind of paternalism. But Wang invites the audience to see his family's decision from within, and has his deputy, Billi (Awkwafina, confidently entering his first leading role and proving that it can be much more than comic relief), discovers and rediscovers ways of expressing love
As a family portrait, The farewell It is full of complex characters carefully drawn and interpersonal dynamics delicately layered. But it's just as powerful as a travel diary about visiting her country of birth, a place that, in this case, is both familiar and terribly strange, where Billi can not help but go crazy and wonders what lives might have been Carried there if she and her parents had never left. Yes last year Crazy Asian rich it was an assertion of Asian American identity as distinct from Old World cultures, The farewell it focuses on the blues of Billi's diaspora, of not feeling completely at home neither in Asia nor in America. Wang's direction is mostly unobtrusive, but his film includes sublimely composed images suggesting sticky whims, oases of beauty and the everyday life of contemporary Chinese life. The subject is inevitably grim, but the image is also maliciously funny. Wang pirouetted along some tonal hairpins: in one scene, I let out a laugh in the middle of the sobs.
Oriental Asians tend to be presented, and to present ourselves, as a stoic and unloving lot. But The farewell It is full of visions of us taking care of ourselves, touching and taking care of each other, sometimes in ways that do not overlap with Western customs. Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) of Billi, or grandmother, grabs her granddaughter's "little butt" at the family table.
Nai Nai also takes Billi's hands during the conversations and brings food to the girl's mouth with her chopsticks. At the heart of the drama is a fundamental disagreement about how to best love a family member. (As a scene illustrates, probably not through people who pay afflictions, who almost dress their garments in graves against weaker relatives).
The farewell focuses on the blues of Billi's diaspora, of not feeling completely at home in Asia or America.
While all this affection can go against the guy, The farewell It is also full of well-observed cultural specificities, many of which speak of Billi's sense of dislocation, such as his uncle (Jiang Yongbo) scolding him for not interfering with his father's excessive alcohol consumption (Tzi Ma) or A doctor wants to suddenly Practice your English skills with her while you are in the middle of your grandmother's consultation. These specificities gradually accumulate into a totality. At the end of the film, Billi may still not agree with the decision to keep Nai Nai in the dark about his condition, but he realizes that the decision is in line with a worldview that analyzes health problems and suffering, and therefore it worries. , in different ways but internally logical and cohesive. Sometimes, love is a lot like betrayal, but only if you can not see the whole picture.
Billi's trip is moving but largely silent, so I spent a lot of my time The farewell wondering how her cousin (Chen Han) and her extremely complacent three-month-old girlfriend (Aoi Mizuhara) felt about their wedding banquet. (I would love to see a reinterpretation of the plot from his point of view). But that bit of underdevelopment highlights the meticulousness with which the other characters are shaded. Billi's thorny mother (Diana Lin) slaps her daughter until, suddenly, she confronts other family members in defense of her daughter. (Second-generation immigrants who have returned to countries of ethnic origin with their parents have probably also witnessed the game of changing loyalties, family and national, become many conversations). Nai Nai's children are overwhelmed with the remorse that leaving China deprived her mother of spending her last decades with her children and grandchildren. However, neither of them can imagine staying in their homeland. With three languages among them, clan members sometimes feel overwhelmed by clumsiness and frustratedly stuck exchanging polite inclinations and jokes.
But the movie's most wonderful character is Nai Nai, who once served in the military, received a bullet in wartime, tells Billi incessantly, and … is not always the kindest person. He makes unkind and discriminatory assumptions about the future Japanese girlfriend, with whom he does not speak and does not bother to meet, and the most he will say about his resident boyfriend, whom Mr. Li calls. , is that he is "a living body in the house". (Worse still, it is to know him). It can be vain, right-handed and myopic. Ultimately, it becomes a person whose death will be worth it, not because it is good, but because it is human. The farewell makes it hard to say goodbye