“The Farewell” is one of those highly acclaimed, quietly dramatic indies about the bond of family that’s perfectly fine, but doesn’t ever become truly exceptional despite the hype that surrounds it. Lead actress Awkwafina is fine as the headstrong daughter of a Chinese family who travels to China to see her grandmother following her grandmother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and while she does a good job in the role, the audience never really gets to know her that much: The screenplay depends on information provided by other characters to fill in the character development gaps as well as the performer’s own natural charisma, and it never makes a convincing case for the warmth and bond shared by both women (it’s the narrative perils of “telling” instead of “showing”). The rest of the movie is effective enough, and it’s filled with gorgeous shots and vibrant colors courtesy of director Lulu Wang, but there’s just not enough meat on the narrative’s bones for the audience to immerse themselves in the unfolding drama. It’s perfectly fine for a quiet Saturday afternoon, preferably with members of your immediate family to heighten the emotional impact, but perhaps one needs to adjust one’s expectations ahead of time.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)