Get ready to see a whole new side of Awkwafina in The Farewell.
Summer is traditionally a time for blockbuster films – superhero fare like Avengers: Endgame or the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, fun franchise films like Pokémon Detective Pikachu, or glittery remakes like Aladdin.
But sometimes a quieter film will slip in amongst the explosions, extravagant musical numbers and the extra of it all, and settle in your heart and soul.
And judging by its just-released trailer, The Farewell is going to be that film.
The Farewell stars Awkwafina as Billi, a young Chinese-born, US-raised woman whose grandmother – Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) – in China has cancer. Nai Nai’s family decides to keep the cancer diagnosis a secret from her, and gathers to say their goodbyes under the guise of a wedding.
It debuted at Sundance Film Festival this year and was a huge hit, and it’s easy to see why. During the two and a half minute trailer I cried and I laughed. And then I cried some more. Imagine what I’m going to be like after 90 minutes.
The film is directed by Lulu Wang and based on actual events – plus “an actual lie”, as the trailer teases – from her life.
Lulu Wang said The Farewell explores the “different layers of China”.
“There’s Chinese and American generational culture, and there are different degrees of American culture,” she continued. “There’s the Chinese grandmother who grew up with the Communist Army, the uncle who moved from China to Japan — so it’s still Asian culture, but with certain differences.”
Wang said wanted the film to look at the “nuances of those gaps between these different family members”.
“One thing that unites them is the love of the grandmother,” she said.
The Farewell marks the first dramatic role for Awkwafina, who we’ve previously seen in supporting roles in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, where her clothing and hair choices have played as significant a part as her acting.
In The Farewell she’s more stripped back, and nails the emotion needed to play a character trying to keep her sadness at bay. It’s seeing those emotions crossing her face, plus the family struggling to stand by their decision to keep Nai Nai’s illness from her, that make the film one that you know will stay with you long after the overdone dramatics of summer’s blockbusters have faded.
The Farewell is in cinemas in the US now and will be in cinemas in the UK on 20 September.