It’s difficult to overstate just how incredible Lulu Wang’s new film is. Starring Awkwafina in her dramatic debut after comedic supporting roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, The Farewell is based on actual events in Wang’s life and, as the trailer teases, “an actual lie.”
Billi (Awkwafina), a young Chinese-American woman whose career as an artist is starting to feel unmoored, finds her life thrown into further flux when her grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The family has made the decision to keep the diagnosis a secret. It wants to use the pretext of Billi’s cousin’s wedding to convene in China and, as per the film’s title, bid her farewell.
It’s a lie — or rather, a lie by omission — that weighs heavily on Billi’s mind, especially as she and other members of the family find it increasingly difficult to keep their emotions in check. The film grapples with that sense of conflict, and digs into Billi’s conflicting feelings of belonging and alienation in China as well as the struggle her parents went through in moving their family to America. The experience that Wang is committing to film may be a deeply specific one — the tiny details will ring painfully true for anyone who’s ever felt torn between two cultures — but the emotions she evokes are universal.
Filling out the rest of the cast are Tzi Ma as Billi’s father, Diana Lin as Billi’s mother, Jiang Yongbo as Billi’s uncle, and Lu Hong as Nai Nai’s younger sister.
The Farewell is set to be released by A24 on July 12.