Its the last week before the end of 2020 and I’m working on getting all the backlog on movie reviews and TV binges (more on the ones that were more memorable from my Top 10 TV series) to come out during this coming week! First up is a pairing of movies set in China with Go Back to China and The Farewell.
Let’s check it out!
Go Back To China (2019)
Director (and writer): Emily Ting
Cast: Anna Akana, Richard Ng, Lynn Chen, Kelly Hu, Aviva Wang, Tiger Ting, Jejie Esquerra, Ray Yumul
When spoiled rich girl Sasha Li blows through most of her trust fund, she is cut off by her father and forced to go back to China and work for the family toy business. – IMDB
As a follow-up feature film by Emily Ting, Go Back to China hits a little closer to home for the director as it is semi-autobiographical and relates to her own relationship with her father. Looking at how its categorized, the film does have a lot of elements that I do love whether its fish out of water or coming of age, its all my sort of film and the comedy elements also hit most of the time.
There’s a lot to love about it aside from the subgenre/genre that it sits in. The story itself is pretty fun for the most part about the culture clash and the rich spoiled girl finding her path a little more as she goes to China to get some work experience. At the same time, it helps her use the design skills a little and helps her find responsibility even if she ends up making some mistakes in the process. The sibling relationships and the world of stepsiblings as well as rekindling her relationship with her father all comes into play. Between all the comedy, there are more serious moments that anchor the film into those key elements of Chinese values and how things are done that emphasize on the East meets West. Plus, it features a key role from seasoned actor Richard Ng which only got a cameo in Emily Ting’s debut, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (which happens to be one of my favorite films). Plus, Anna Akana is very good in delivering those comedy moments as well as capturing the essence of her role.
Go Back to China does have some little missteps perhaps here and there and the story isn’t quite as captivating as that of Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. There is a certain love for toy making in her movies especially since her first featured a female lead that switched from fashion design to toy design and the character of Sasha here also ends up following the same path except actually in the China factories (which Ruby in Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong also talks about). I’m not sure if its deliberate to have that link but to me, who has seen both of these movies definitely thought it was such a nice subconscious link between the two.
The Farewell (2019)
Director (and writer): Lulu Wang
Cast: Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo, Hong Lu, Hong Lin, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Yongbo Jiang, Han Chen, Aoi Mizuhara, Xiang Li
A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies. – IMDB
Its already the second viewing of The Farewell and I honestly thought that I had reviewed it the first time around at the beginning of the year. Imagine the surprise of it not being reviewed yet so here we are! The Farewell is a fantastic movie and probably one of the movies that actually hit me a lot harder in the second viewing. Perhaps it has to do with the current pandemic situation we’re in that hits harder on the family element and being away and not being able to do anything when there’s anything that happens. The Farewell is very much a dramedy in many ways. It does stay in the field of being more in the drama element even if there are some of Awkwafina’s quirky remarks that makes it have a little humor to it.
The Farewell crafts the East meets West values really well especially in a family dynamic sort of scene. Its even more intriguing that its based on a true lie. The whole concept of the family suffering the pain and leaving the grandmother to live every day without the knowledge of her illness is portrayed so well as the family tension really starts to show in all the characters and revealed one by one in discussion and reactions. As Billi starts off being fairly resistant to this lie, she does join in at the end which creates this fantastic slow motion scene walking down the street. That shot was one of my absolute favorites. Plus, its a big emphasis on these little things in Chinese tradition and values and also on justifying why they choose to create these lies while also using a happy event as a reason for the family to gather together.
Awkwafina is truly crafting herself into a really great actress. She appears in a lot of different movies but no doubt The Farewell is a very memorable roles, probably my favorite of hers so far. Not to mention that the film is mostly in Mandarin and the grandmother only referred to as Nai Nai is such a cute old lady character but also tough as nails in some ways especially when she tries to arrange the wedding details with the restaurant and then how she deals with her family. There’s a few sides to her character.
Overall, The Farewell is an exceptional movie. There’s so much to love about it from how it structures the culture clash to highlighting the different Chinese values and beliefs to the acting and performances of the characters and the unbelievable fact that it is based on a true event and quirkily referred in the beginning as based on a true lie while also giving an update on the actual situation of Nai Nai in real life.