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.
Billi is a 20-something Chinese-American who emigrated with her parents when she was a young girl. Most of the family lives back in the homeland, but Billi’s dad left home with his brother and haven’t visited together with their mother for over 30 years. Though she’s thousands of miles away in New York, Billi and grandma Nai Nai are like besties, joyfully chitchatting on the phone every day. Billi and Nai Nai have a relationship that is one we’d all like to have with our grandma: special and precious, uniquely close. Even though Nai Nai is lovingly possessive over all of her children and grandchildren, we see that Billi is the special one.
We join the story when Nai Nai is in the doctor’s office, and her sister is in a private conversation with the doctor, hearing bad news of Nai Nai’s health. The Stage 4 lung cancer will take her life within a few months, but no one wants to tell Nai Nai. Apparently this is somewhat of a Chinese cultural practice for the family to not let their loved ones know they’re dying. So they agree to keep this diagnosis a secret from Nai Nai.
But how will they all get together to pay one last visit and honor Nai Nai if they aren’t able to tell her why?
The family concocts a fake wedding for one of the grandsons, and that becomes the catalyst for delightful humor and inside-joke antics. The Farewell is a sweet wonderful story about a family’s complex love and a granddaughter’s devotion. The writers have woven in some deep themes of generational and cultural tension but handle everything with love and lightheartedness. Even the ending lifts us up and, at the same time, touches the part of us that doesn’t want to say goodbye to someone we love.