Blu-ray Review: The Farewell

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Lulu Wang | CAST: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Shuzhen Zhao, X Mayo
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 12, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $18.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes
SPECS: PG | 98 min. | Comedy drama | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | Spanish and English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

One of the most successful independent films of 2019, The Farewell received excellent reviews and an impressive $18 million in box-office returns since its release July 2019 launch.

This bittersweet true-life tale from writer-director Lulu Wang (Posthumous)–inspired by her own confessional on NPR’s This American Life— features Awkwfina (Crazy Rich Asians) in a breakout role as Billi, an aspiring writer living in Brooklyn. Billi decides to go back to her mainland China homeland when she discovers her beloved grandmother Nai Nai  (impressive first-timer Zhao Shuzen) is seriously ill. Billi’s parents—aloof, non-committal mother and heavy drinking father– decide not to inform Nai Nai of her dire prognosis. Eventually, Billi and her parents head to China to visit the elderly woman, and also get together with other family members to attend a family wedding.

The Farewell moves fluidly from serious drama to offbeat humor, and from Mandarin to English languages, centering on family interactions and foibles, as well as Billi’s re-assimilation into the Chinese culture she hasn’t been part of since she was a young girl when her parents moved to America.

The primary source for laughs is the grandiose wedding, covered from preparation to awkward pairing between bride and groom, to incident-filed wedding party. Adding poignancy to the proceedings is a reminder at film’s end that this is, in fact, a true story, touching and funny in its own distinctive way,

Awkwafina scores in her first lead role, for which she has been discussed as a possible Oscar contender. The Korean/Chinese actress and  sometimes recording artist is certainly asked to show of her acting chops and range and comes through impressively.

With its rave reviews and positive word-of-mouth, The Farewell‘s success will likely continue in its post-theatrical life.

Buy or Rent The Farewell

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.