Anyone worth their salt agrees that Awkwafina knows her way around comedy. The 30-year-old rapper and comedian has already made her mark starring in landmark films like Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8, and now she’s changing it up with her newest film project, The Farewell.
Based on “an actual lie,” the indie film tells the story of Billi (played by Awkwafina), a young woman born in China but raised in the US, and her discovery that her grandmother, Nai Nai, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Nai Nai has been given a short time to live, but her family decides not to tell her that she’s dying: instead, they throw an impromptu wedding to unite their scattered family members and reconnect with her before she passes. Billi travels back to her birth country to say goodbye to her sick grandmother and struggles to hold back her emotions around her sweet (and endearingly meddlesome, as only grandparents can be) Nai Nai.
While the film largely deals with the inevitability of death and how one family deals with it, it also delves into Billi’s own struggle with her identity as a Chinese-American and how it affects her interactions with her extended family. As Billi goes from one home to another, she struggles with the weight of her family’s lie, saying goodbye to her beloved Nai Nai without revealing her motivation, and feeling like a fish out of water in China. It’s an intense mix of emotions to convey onscreen, and from the looks of the trailer, Awkwafina pulls it off beautifully.
The Farewell is based on the true story of director Lulu Wang, who previously shared her story with This American Life back in 2016. The trailer for the film dropped on May 7 and has already garnered rave reviews from its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Along with Awkwafina, the film stars Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, and Jiang Yongbo. Check out the emotional trailer above, and look out for The Farewell in theaters on July 12.