In theaters on July 12, The Farewell casts Awkwafina as Billi, a woman born in China but raised in the U.S., whose trip to Changchun takes a turn when she finds out that her family is concealing her a cancer diagnosis from her grandmother. Under the guise of a cousin's wedding, members of the family have gathered from all over the world to say goodbye. But as Billi starts to bond with her Nai Nai, along with the rest of her clan, what starts out as a devastating blow soon turns into an emotional journey of self-discovery.
The film's slogan,"based on an actual lie," is actually the truth. Wang, who also wrote the script, based the story on her own family's elaborate plan to conceal her grandmother’s stage IV lung cancer diagnosis from her.
This is Awkwafina's first lead role, and her first foray into the dramatic. And as someone who was raised in large part by her own grandmother in Queens, N.Y., the subject hit close to home.
“The universe kind of rained it on down,” she told Refinery29 in an interview last August. “I went to China — I hadn’t been there since I was 19 — and I just remember thinking: ‘I want my grandma to see this movie,’ and it’s the same thought I had with Crazy Rich Asians. I’ve done mostly comedy — I had never cried as an actress. I literally didn’t think I was capable of crying.”
But of course, she found a way to nail it. “I kind of compare crying in scenes to keeping up a boner — sorry to bring it there," she said. "You have a boner, you cry, but you can’t force it back. There comes a window, where ‘No, it’s gone, I can’t do it anymore.’”
Check out the full trailer below: