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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Shows importance of family. Provokes thought about differences between Eastern and Western cultures and sheds light on practices that may be unfamiliar to some viewers. Themes of compassion, empathy, self-control.
Positive Role Models
Strong Asian representation in a true Chinese American story. Features an almost all-Asian cast and a female Chinese American director. Main character Billi isn't portrayed with gender stereotypes; she struggles with balancing her own integrity with her family's definition of compassion.
Violence & Scariness
Plot hinges on a beloved grandmother's terminal illness diagnosis; the family is frequently visibly dismayed or upset at the news.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Questions arise about whether a newly engaged couple is pregnant; a crack is made about what goes on "in the bedroom." Couple holds hands. Grandmother tries to make a love connection for her granddaughter.
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"S--t" is heard once; "stupid" is used frequently, but mostly in a loving way.
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Products & Purchases
Conversations suggest that being rich (or looking like it) is crucial to an adult's status. A tween character never looks up from his iPhone. A VW logo is seen on a car but doesn't seem to be promoting the vehicle.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Smoking. Discussion about someone who drinks too much, to the worry of his family. Having the right kind of alcohol at the wedding is a topic of conversation; at the wedding, everyone drinks quite a bit. A drinking game is shown as a bonding moment for a family. Characters get drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Farewell is a thought-provoking dramedy starring Awkwafina about a Chinese family that's dealing with a loved one's impending death. The film sheds light on the differences between Eastern and Western philosophies of life, particularly in the way that family members interact -- but, more than that, it truly enhances understanding of Chinese life, beliefs, and traditions. It's mostly in Mandarin with English subtitles, though the words are fairly simple because several relatives don't know Chinese well (which makes it a great pick for anyone learning Mandarin who wants to strengthen their skills). Although it's rated PG, the themes and content are more appropriate for older tweens and up. "S--t" is used once, and there's quite a bit of smoking and drinking, leading up to a booze-fest of a wedding, during which the family bonds over drinking games. Some characters communicate a value of money over happiness, and references are made to gambling (which is seen in a seedy, smoke-filled room). Themes include compassion, empathy, and self-control. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a simple but genius film that sheds light on Chinese culture and philosophy while delivering a doozy of a paradigm shift. By telling The Farewell's story through the eyes of a Chinese-born girl who was raised in the United States and is now returning to her homeland, writer-director Lulu Wang allows Western audiences to empathize with Billi's complex feelings about unfamiliar Chinese traditions and attitudes. But as Billi begins to absorb the benefits of the Chinese perspective, it will hopefully also dawn on Western viewers that their way isn't the only one.
Popcorn movies are great, but the opportunity to introduce true understanding and talk about cultural values with our children is a rare occurrence. Since most of The Farewell is subtitled, kids will have to do some reading -- but with the funny, relatable Awkwafina front and center, the language gap isn't too overwhelming. And it's definitely worth the effort. Honesty, compassion, and empathy are traits that many Americans prioritize instilling in their children, but Wang brilliantly challenges Western views by presenting an opposing way of interacting, letting viewers chew on what's "right" and what's "wrong." The film's final moment is a philosophical explosion, and the audience's reaction is the sound of minds being blown.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.