I watch a lot of films, if you could not already tell. Along with “Fast Color,” this is a film I enjoyed this year. I thought back and forth of whether or not to see the film. I had too many questions about the story. What I recognized was the beauty and reverence of Chinese tradition. When Nai Nai, a headstrong matriarch, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, her family does not tell her, masking a wedding to see her. Yet the reconnection opens wounds during what should be a time of celebration.
Awkwafina delivers a wonderful performance as Billi. Before going back to China, Billi is low on life prospects as an artist. She has a monologue that truly wraps the emotions the family is enduring. Tzi Ma is great as Haiyan, Billi’s dad and Nai Nai’s son. Diana Linn is sensational as Jian, Billi’s mom. Zhao Shuzhen is the heart of the film as Nai Nai with a fierce spirit. Jian Yongbo gives a bold performance as Haibin, Billi’s uncle. Lu Hong is warm as Nai Nai’s little sister. Chen Han and Aoi Mizuhara are delightful as Hao Hao and Aiko, respectively, the couple getting married. The ensemble works extraordinarily together where no character is small.
Writer and Director Lulu Wang adapts her story that encompasses family and culture with humor, heart-tugging drama, and suspense. The colors match the mood of the scene. The sets are unique. The audience can take in everyone’s actions from scenes in the hallway. There is a striking dinner scene where Chinese ideals versus American ideals are argued. The ending is almost incomplete and then a breath of fresh air. I always appreciate people who actually eat in films. The film is also mostly in Mandarin. I read the subtitles without missing a beat. I also never thought calling someone “stupid child” would sound endearing.