Death comes to China in The Farewell’s first trailer

Awkwafina gives a moving performance in the Sundance breakout.


Charles Bramesco


Perhaps the most glowingly-reviewed premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Lulu Wang’s heartfelt drama The Farewell has been on cinephile radar for months now. With only a couple short months until the film’s summer release, the time is right for a trailer, and distributor A24 has duly obliged.

The public’s first glimpse at the film promises a heartfelt look into international identity, family, responsibility, and grief — and a re-introduction to Awkwafina, a star capable of much more than she had initially let on.

The rapper-turned-comic-relief (she buoyed both Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians last year with her Bronx-bred levity) turns leading lady here, portraying Chinese-American millennial Billi. She feels all the usual tensions with her slightly more old-school family, torn between the Eastern sense of collective obligation and her Western individualism.

The film explicitly lays out this dichotomy as Billi travels to China on a grim mission: give grandma Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) one final goodbye before she succumbs to cancer. The only catch, a hook that landed this true story placement on popular radio program This American Life, is that Nai Nai’s the only one who doesn’t know she’s dying.

The trailer takes a somber tone, as Billi struggles with the choice to keep her grandmother in the dark about the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone tells her it’s a cultural thing, but she can’t quite wrap her head around what feels like a violation of personal rights (or even just basic dignity).

Awkwafina has already generated awards chatter for her reined-in starring turn, tamping down her natural instincts for humor and playing up raw, tender emotion. Those keeping track of ideal blockbuster counterprogramming for the summer’s dog days need look no further.

The Farewell comes to theaters in the US on 12 July.

Published 7 May 2019

Tags: Awkwafina Lulu Wang

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