Ben Oliver

Now
The
film

The Farewell

Chinese people have saying, when people get cancer they die. It’s not cancer that kills them, it’s the fear.
12 January 2020

A Chinese family find out their grandmother is dying of cancer. They decide not to tell her, instead holding a shotgun wedding for a cousin as an excuse to get the family together. This is particularly shocking for a small side of the family who now live in the US.

A carefully written and intelligent screenplay helps The Farewell tread the tricky tightrope between humour and sorrow, and it barely slips along the way. Zhao Shuzhen stands out as the grandmother, so full of life, unaware of her diagnosis, and happier than ever to be among family.

It’s a little under-powered and sparse at times, just a shade more effort to give it some emotional impact might have really brought it all home better. However you have to respect Wang for refusing to exploit the audience, it’s better this way than it ending up a schmaltzy mess.

It would be harsh to say the film is without heart, the subject matter and performances bring more than enough of that to the table, but I’m not sure it all had to be quite so straight-laced.

Nevertheless, The Farewell is a well put together film that stands out as one of the better ones of 2019.