THE FAREWELL REVIEW

The Farewell is a beautiful movie. From the artful cinematography to the cultural introspetion, Lulu Wang and co. will take you on an emotional journey.

The story revolves around Billi, who discovers her Nai Nai (grandmother, or more specifically “mother’s father”) is dying of cancer.

Billi is ethnically Chinese but has lived most of her life in New York. She speaks pretty good Mandarin, but with an American accent and a few semantic lapses. Though she grew up in China till she was 8, she definitely embodies the American mindset.

Her family, apart from immediate, has all stayed in East Asia. Mostly China, with the exception of her father’s brother (and his family), an artist who moved to Japan, but still considers himself Chinese before all.

Here’s where she differs from the rest of her family: THE LIE.


THE LIE

The lie is that the family has decided to not tell the grandmother that she is terminally ill (stage IV lung cancer) and instead, they will bear the burden of knowledge and try to keep her spirits up while she is alive.

They have gathered the family under the guise of a snappy wedding with Billi’s cousin and his girlfriend of 3 months. This serves as the explanation of why the family is all coming together at the same time.

Billi cannot grasp the concept of why her family would outwardly lie about the situation and the purpose of their visit, and, in her mind, this comes into conflict with all she knows (read: her more Western/US mindset). Her need to tell her grandmother seems to be more important than the family’s wish to tell keep the secret.

This clashing of mentality is central to the film. Throughout the feature, Billi has to not only come to terms with her family’s decision, but also respect it (and most importantly not judge it.) She seems to be navigating on her tip toes between trying to please her mother, father et. al and staying true to herself.

We don’t understand why Billi is so reticent to take on her family’s mindset and that isn’t explored much. She prefers to argue that this isn’t a good decision and doesn’t seem curious to know why they take care of matters that way. Most of the explanation of the why comes from her uncle (the artist in Japan).

There’s a comedically ironic moment when her uncle warns Billi repeatedly not to tell her grandmother about her condition. And yet, at the wedding, that same uncle gives an over the top emotional speech, almost spilling the beans. Oopsie..

However, there is never a scene where Billi bawls and breaks down crying as her character suggests she might, being portrayed with a reactive personality. She never cries about her Nai Nai and privately expresses her impending grief. The struggle and difficulty to understand the family lie is only verbal – speaking English to the doctor and going over her family to ask if this is unethical, the doctor responding that most families in China deal with cancer diagnoses this way. Though you could argue that inner struggle is not very cinematic, and more something suitable to a novel, The Farewell does parcels in moments where we see her hesitating before speaking, finally coming to terms with lying to her grandmother and not communicating in the same way as the culture where she spent most of her life.


FINAL VERDICT

All in all, this was an interesting exploration of cultural mindsets at-0dds with each other and a journey with emotional intensity and grace.

The acting was superb, my favorite being the Nai-Nai. She had a big range of emotions and all were believable. Whether it was showing her being scared at the hospital, and silly when playing games at the table, arguing about the wedding menu, worrying as grandmother’s do about everyone’s food intake, and being inspirational when teaching her granddaughter the beneficial practice of tai-chi. She was a well rounded character acted out beautifully.

The cinematography was also pleasant, seeing wide shots of the whole family walking together as a unit to the close-ups when the cousin starts to tear up, to juggling the round table debate – informational and sharp.

Life is not just about what you do. It’s more about how you do it.

Nai Nai

I’ll leave you with that. Well acted, interesting storyline, a good drama with moments of humor⭐⭐⭐⭐

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MIB INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

I SO wanted to love this movie. It was a reboot that was not unwelcome from a franchise that was so entertaining and easy to like, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the movie we all hoped for.

BEST PARTS IN THE TRAILER

It was one of those movies where all the best parts get used for the trailer and the rest seems like plot devices to get from one scene shown in the trailer to another. But props to whoever put their trailer together. I have to say, the trailer was REALLY well developed. Credit where credit is due. Fast-paced, fresh, funny and showing off the lead actors’ charisma. Backed with Missy Elliot’s upbeat: “WTF”- what’s not to like?

The lead duo’s chemistry was undeniable in “Thor: Ragnarok” (incidentally, one of my favorites of the Marvel Universe) but in this one, it kind of fell flat.

CHARACTER COMPARISON

What worked in the first series was how the characters played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were at odds with each other. K’s stone cold faced always provided a laugh and K’s confidence met with his alien learning-curve gave us that audience insight. We were learning the world with him.

In MIB: International, it is less stark of a contrast. M and H seems to operate *slightly* differently. M is prepared, H is go-with-the-flow. But deep down, they like each other. Even awkwardly hinting at a romantic interest, which was confusing. Either make it a strictly professional relationship or make it a love story about a badass couple saving the world. The in-between did not work and came out of nowhere. Which begs the question: why? and: who was this for?

As for the audience perspective, I believe they tried to fit Tessa Thompson’s M into the role J once had, allowing us to see the world through her eyes. M is a noobie (sure) but knows SO much more than J ever did about the alien world going in, so a lot of the comedy about the novelty of the alien world is lost. Even though her “zero chill” attitude was funny at times.

“We are the Men in Black… the men AND women in black”

There were A FEW MOMENTS of laughs. Kumail Nanjiani’s “Pawny” brings about some genuine laughs but not enough to justify him as a character. Agent C seems like a useless character as well, a plot device for us not to be sure who to trust. There just to make things harder for our hero, without much of a personality apart from “stickler nerd”.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

CONFUSING NOT INTRIGUING

The whole movie we are led to believe The Hive is back, a supposedly defeated enemy that can take on other people’s appearance, much like the Lara Flynn Boyle character in MIB II. We get hints that Chris Hemsworth’s character is probably part of The Hive. Everyone says he “acts differently” and is “not the same” since his battle to defeat The Hive a couple years earlier. Then, at arguably the crux of the whole movie, we found out that Chris Hemsworth’s character, H, has been neuralyzed. Thus the logical conclusion being that that’s why he’s not his former self, and that his British mentor (pun-supreme-named “High-T”) and head of MIB London had to be the one to neuralyze him, therefore making High-T the villain, as they two were the only ones who fought The Hive. This was not an ending I particularly cared about because I didn’t care much for H and High-T’s relationship to begin with.

RUSHED, RUSHED, RUSHED

With that said, they build up this epiphanous moment up for the whole movie and then gloss over it in two seconds. The realization happens as a new action sequence starts. H discovers he’s been neuralyzed, that his mentor was the villain all along and then.. the scene immediately cuts to an action sequence. There is no time to breathe or connect, no time to realize the depth of just what that realization entails, no time to care.

And then that fight scene with Liam Neeson’s High-T didn’t make much sense either. H proclaims halfway through seeing the face of his once-mentor change into an aggressively monster-looking creature that “I believe he’s still in there” as if the alien was a poltergeist demon inhabiting High-T’s body, which only confused me even more about the mechanics of The Hive and made me question what little I knew.

Seemed to rely too much on the cast and not enough on the script. A disappointment, sure, but one I probably will be made to forget when SONY and COLUMBIA PICTURES neuralyze me.

Confused and rushed. The best part was the trailer. – ⭐ ½