The Farewell Unclassified 18+
Awkwafina proves her dramatic chops are as nuanced as her comedic ones in this Sundance hit about a Chinese-American woman reuniting with family to farewell her dying grandmother – who doesn’t know of her deadly diagnosis.
The scene-stealing Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean's 8 star steps into her first lead role as Billi, a semi-autobiographical version of writer/director Lulu Wang, who based The Farewell on “an actual lie”. Born in China, Billi moved to the US with her parents when she was a child but kept up a close, albeit long-distance, relationship with her beloved Nai Nai, her father’s mother. When Billi learns her grandmother has terminal cancer, she’s distressed that the extended family wants to keep it a secret from Nai Nai, while gathering everyone together in Changchun to say their goodbyes under the ruse of an impromptu wedding.
Wang recently received the Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award in honour of The Farewell’s innovation, originality and independent spirit. Funny, heart-warming and achingly honest, the film expands upon a true story Wang previously revealed on NPR’s This American Life, and is given extra veracity by the casting of Nai Nai’s own sister, Lu Hong, as herself. Little Nai Nai, as the family calls her, was the one behind the decision to keep Nai Nai in the dark, and she provides wonderful catharsis and humour on screen. But it’s Awkwafina as a woman caught between cultures who gives the film weight and poise, ensuring The Farewell is both delightfully wry and deeply heartfelt.
“An amusingly high-concept setup for a movie and an achingly sad one, a duality that Wang brilliantly maneuvers. The premise is never played for broad or easy laughs, and The Farewell finds much grace in that precision.” – Vanity Fair
The Farewell is also screening as MIFF's Closing Night Gala.