The Farewell

Movie review by Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
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Common Sense says

age 11+

Awkwafina shines in excellent dramedy about family, culture.

PG 2019 98 minutes

Parents say

age 12+

Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+

Based on 7 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 11+

Comedy in a time of family despair that offers some interesting cultural lessons.

I liked the movie. I took my kids and think it is a good movie for other kids to watch, with a slight caveat. The film tells the story of a 'Good Lie'--a family concocting a story to get everyone together one last time before the grandmother who is suffering from cancer passes away. In bringing back the children and grandchildren and extended ‘aunties’ and others, the family is reunited and able to deal with their grief, together, but still doing everything they can to not let the grandmother know of her diagnosis. This leads to some complicated but funny moments, along with plenty of family-style awkwardness that is good for a laugh. Set in China, with Chinese values of family and togetherness, it’s a good cross-cultural lesson frequently displaying the Americanized Chinese view portrayed by the lead Awkwafina (who was great by the way) against her relatives and others who remained in Asia. The plot may seem a bit far fetched for many Western viewers. In fact, for many the idea of a family or a doctor withholding information about a medical condition is simply unfathomable. Besides being unethical, it’s illegal in many places and goes against the relationship of trust necessary between a doctor and patient. But in other cultures, the needs of the ‘family’ as a unit and the role that each member plays in ‘shouldering the emotional burden’ are important. The movie does a good job trying to explain this difference in many different points of the film and it’s an interesting lesson for children to learn about how other cultures deal with grief. My caveat for children is two-fold: one, there is an elephant in the room such that anytime you see a character laughing or smiling, you can see them instantly remember why they are there and drop back into a more somber state. Let’s not forget the film is about a grandmother about to die. This can be a bit of a downer for some kids expecting carefree humor and laughter. My second caveat is for younger children as this movie is about a lie, a falsehood, a deception and the characters in the film go out of their way to defend lying. There are countless scenes of small white lies throughout the movie (‘Yes I’m wearing a hat’ when they aren’t—‘I’m at a friends house’ when they are in the hospital, etc) not to mention the basic plot point about lying to their grandmother about her health. For a very small child, i.e. under 10 who still has a black / white sort of ‘all lies are bad’ opinion this film is going to really turn that on their head. This will likely lead to a conversation of when you should tell the truth and when you shouldn’t say something with total honesty. For some younger kids, these differences are still too subtle and this may be difficult for them to comprehend. But that said, I still feel it was worthwhile for my family to see. We had conversations about the differences in culture and the reason they concocted the story. The film created engagement and discussion amongst our family, which is always a positive thing. Gave it four stars and recommend for kids over about 11. Oh, one other note: The story is based in China and much of it is in Mandarin Chinese, which means younger kids are going to have to read the subtitles to keep up. My own kids, who have had some Mandarin in school, reported that they were actually able to understand quite a bit of the dialogue as it wasn’t overly complicated words or phrases. If your kids have studied Chinese they may find this a bit of a fun challenge.
1 person found this helpful.
age 13+

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