The Farewell by Lulu Wang [6/10]

Ignore the movie trailer of “The Farewell,” for this is not a light comedy of the “Chinese immigrants return home” variety. Instead, Lulu Wang’s downbeat story is a moody look at the role of home and the love of family. Struggling American Chinese Billi (played wonderfully truly by Awkwafina), barely holding on in New York but very much a New Yorker, returns home as part of deceptive last rites for her Nai Nai (grandmother). The suburban city feel of the cinematography, all bleak apartments and footpaths and restaurants, in some unnamed city (it felt like Shenzhen to me but could equally well be outer Beijing), is superb. Culminating in a very Chinese wedding, the movie probes imminent loss with a seriousness that belies the drippings of mild comedy. If it drags a bit in spots, that’s because the plot contains no artificial drama. The final scenes of separation and dislocation round out a minor-key but worthy film

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