Following a successful film festival run, writer and director Lulu Wang’s new movie The Farewell opened in select theaters earlier this month. The movie is based on real events from Wang’s life (or, more accurately, “based on an actual lie” as we’re told in the first frames of the film).
The story focuses on Wang’s relationship with her family after her grandmother (Nai Nai) is diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. In keeping with Chinese tradition, the family keeps the diagnosis from Nai Nai to help preserve her quality of life. As Wang’s mom character tells her daughter, Billi (played by Awkwafina), at one point early in the film, “People don’t die of cancer—they die of the fear.” (If the premise of the movie sounds familiar, it may be because Wang’s story was featured on This American Life in 2016.)
Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell; Screen Rant
Following her breakthrough roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s Eight, critics are raving about Awkwafina’s performance in The Farewell. The New York Post proclaimed, “Awkwafina has gone from rapper to comedic powerhouse, and now, most powerfully, to indie darling in ‘The Farewell.’ It’s one of the year’s sweetest films.”
First-time actress Zhao Shuzhen, who plays Nai Nai, was another bright spot in the dramedy. Awkwafina took to Twitter to praise her performance and thank her for her mentorship, “This amazing woman’s name is Zhao Shuzhen, but I call her Teacher Zhao. Her performance in @thefarewell is beyond incredible, and working with her was a privilege and an honor. Our movie is out today, and go see it for our incredible ensemble, helmed by the GOAT @thumbelulu.”
The cast of The Farewell; Screen Rant
Really, though: Is there anything Awkwafina can’t do? It doesn’t sound like she’s planning on slowing down anytime soon. With several films and TV shows in post-production, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Awkwafina’s brilliant range of talent in 2019 and 2020. Jumanji: The Next Level, Breaking News in Yuba County, and The Spongebob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge are just a few of her next sure-to-be-hits.