TL;DR – “Life is not just about what you do. It’s more about how you do it.”
The granny in the picture came alone for the movie, The Farewell.
I dropped by the theatre alone for this show too.
I noticed her only at the end of the show, when she walked past me. I thought she looked like the Old Granny or Lao Nai Nai (老奶奶) in the movie and that got me all sat up and took notice.
She was walking off with difficulty, and all by herself too. I started to observe her closely, because seriously, not many people love watching movies alone, what more a lady of her age who was struggling to climb the stairs leading out of the theatre.
This particular old Granny must have been very much moved by the show because she was sniffing as she walked towards the lift. Or, she was perhaps just feeling cold, as most of us would probably think.
However, if you had just came out of the theatre after watching The Farewell, you would also be casting the cold aside and fill your mind with reflections of what you had just experienced on the big screen.
This movie is just so marvellously powerful in tugging at one’s heartstrings from many unexpected angles.
The moving screenplay is all about a girl named Bili and her family returning to China from America, under the guise of a wedding to quietly say goodbye to her granny.
The wise old matriarch of the family in Chang Chun, China, had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer and was given just three months to live.
This show is scripted as a comedy cum family drama. Comedy, because of the culture shock that Bili, the young gal who grew up in New York, faced when she headed to China.
Drama, as it is also about the differences between the Western and Eastern perspectives, and in this show, it centres around the concept of family.
The acting skills of the lead casts are brilliant. It is not easy portraying pent-up emotions of sadness while putting on an exterior expression of happiness celebrating the joyous occasion of a wedding.
One of the classic quotes in the show has this,
“The West views a person’s life as that of an individual’s; whereas the East views a person’s life as part of a whole family or even an entire clan.”
In other words, people in China are willing to share the burden of hiding the grim Cancer diagnosis from the Old Granny, whereas in the United States, it is considered wrong to do so.”
Thus, Bili struggled for the longest time the tussle in her of hiding the news from her granny or telling Granny the truth that she only had months to live.
Eventually, her appreciation of family ties and her Eastern DNA convinced her to hide the truth from her granny.
The wedding banquet towards the end of the show was the culmulation of all the joy, satisfaction, sadness, guilt and remorse the family felt from Day One when they first gathered together in Chang Chun. These emotions were meshed and rolled into one, and eventually expressed, portrayed and exploded spectacularly in that banquet hall that fateful night. You will be glued to your seat, literally overwhelmed.
However before I could recover from the turmoil of the wedding banquet, the most poignant and most dreaded scene of the show had to arrive next. It was inevitable that Bili and her family had to return to New York eventually after the wedding banquet was over.
The climax has got to be the pieces of advice Bili’s Granny dished out to her in the bedroom while waiting for the cab. They are not to be missed.
“Life is not just about what you do. It’s more about how you do it.”
Granny consoled Bili when the latter confessed that she had failed to get a scholarship in New York.
“Nai Nai (Granny) believes in you. You should know that how well you do in life depends on the power of your own mind.”
Granny’s advice to her just before Bili’s father shouted that the cab had arrived.
The family left China with a heavy heart.
However, Bili started a new life in New York with completely refreshing perspectives.You will step out of the cinema with a new perspective and renewed hope too, after catching the movie.
Go watch it at one of the theatres near you if you need a reminder of what life should be all about.