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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Chinese family hides sad truth from grandma

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By Dang Le/managing editor

Billi (Awkwafina) struggles to find her identity as a Chinese American. She wants to be honest to her Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) but also understands why her family wants to keep everything a secret. Photo courtesy of A24

A comedy-drama movie based on an actual lie makes its Amazon Prime debut after a year of racking accolades across nations. 

“The Farewell” is a story about a Chinese American family who decides not to tell their grandma Nai Nai (“paternal grandmother” in Mandarin) that she can only live for a short time. To spend time with her, they come up with a plan. 

However, Billi, a 30-year-old struggling writer and the niece of Nai Nai, was left out of this plan. Her parents feared that she would not be able to keep the secret, so they left without her. But she ended up flying to China anyway. 

Directed and written by Lulu Wang, the story documents her real-life experience. She introduces a contrasting lifestyle and cultural beliefs between the Chinese and American ways of life. 

Billi believes Nai Nai should know about the secret so she can mentally prepare. But in China, that’s not how the culture is. 

The Chinese believe that knowing the truth is more hurtful than the disease itself, so they decide to share the burden for Nai Nai.

The family lives in a traditional way. They want the others to look at them in awe, no matter what is behind the scene. So, they lie to the neighbors while also lying to their grandma. 

The whole movie is based on a lie (or multiple lies), but for some inexplicable reason, the audience can still feel the warmth and authenticity of each character. 

As Wang speaks both languages, she craftily blends the use of Chinese and English in different scenes without feeling forced. 

The characters speak in Chinese when staying close to grandma, but they discuss in English what they want to keep as a secret. 

Known as a viral rapper on YouTube and a few comedic roles, Awkwafina defies the stereotypes and gives the best acting performance of 2019. 

Billi struggles with her life in America but also cannot keep up with her background culture. 

It’s a demanding role as one has to be funny yet able to take the audience through an emotional rollercoaster ride, but Awkwafina makes it effortless. 

From her eyes and smile to line delivery, she has mastered them all. 

In a movie where viewers may find it challenging to keep up with the language, the soundtrack plays a vital part. In “The Farewell,” the score has to express Billi’s emotions, display both cultures and also tell the story. 

It nails all the tasks perfectly, as one may find themselves with teary eyes when the ending credit starts rolling. 

The emotions from the last scene combine with the song being sung in two languages, everything fits the theme so well.

Hilarious, honest and heartfelt, “The Farewell” is one of the strongest movies coming out of the last year. The movie deserves all of its acclaims and more with such a creative directing style, original storytelling and beautiful acting. 

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