Anyone paying attention to the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year knows “The Farewell” is one of the can’t-miss films of the summer movie season. Lulu Wang’s latest directorial offering earned some of the best reviews in Park City and was named the festival’s best picture and best director in IndieWire’s critics’ poll. The family comedy-drama now heads into the summer backed by A24 and a dramatic breakthrough for Awkwafina, who previously gained attention on the big screen with supporting roles in “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians.”
“The Farewell” stars Awkwafina as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who travels to China to attend a family wedding. The only issue is that the wedding is a sham, designed as an excuse to bring Billi’s entire family together under one roof so that everyone can spend time with their terminally ill matriarch, Nai-Nai. No one is allowed to tell Nai-Nai abut the lie, which sends Billi on an unexpected journey of self-discovery and family bonding. The supporting cast includes Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Chen Han, and Zhao Shuzhen.
In his A- review out of the Sundance Film Festival, IndieWire chief critic Eric Kohn praised Awkwafina for her revelatory dramatic work, writing, “The film allows Awkwafina to access previously unseen depths; she was a scene-stealer in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Ocean’s Eight’ but here transforms into a complex, authentic embodiment of Chinese-American identity as the movie gives her room to explore.”
Wang wrote “The Farewell” script based on a lie her own family lived through. Wang initially shared the story on an episode of NPR’s “This American Life.” The film is one of three high profile Sundance favorites A24 is releasing this summer; the others include Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” (May 17) and Joe Talbot’s award-winning “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (June 7). The studio is also releasing Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” follow-up “Midsommar” in theaters July 3. Should Wang’s film breakout at the box office, A24 could have an awards contender on its hands for Wang’s screenplay and potentially Awkwafina’s breakthrough lead role.
A24 will release “The Farewell” in theaters July 12. Watch the film’s official trailer in the video below.