Awkwafina reveals a hitherto unknown side to her in Lulu Wangs The Farewell which beautifully tells a culturally specific story of grief and family in a universal way.
Based on an actual lie, the story follows Awkwafinas Billi, a 30-something living in New York where she moved with her parents as a young girl.
Despite growing up in America and all that entails, she remains close with her grandmother, Nai Nai, who lives in China and they speak regularly, in Chinese, on the phone.
At first Billi never seems caught between two cultures, and Wangs script shows us a woman who can easily navigate the two; Billi walks down the New York streets and jokes with charity fundraisers, argues over free washing at a laundromat only to be told shes already getting a steal at rent price from the same landlord, allows her grandmother to offer earnest warnings against wearing earrings that may attract a potential attacker despite never having visited the city.
But Billis millennial world – shes a struggling artist who we find out early on has been turned down for a fellowship – flips upside down when she discovers her grandmother has terminal cancer and only a few months to live, and Wangs film begins to weave a story of the immigrant experience and the divides felt.
As is tradition, the family has chosen not to tell grandmother of her diagnosis and instead plans a wedding for Billis cousin and his girlfriend of three months as a ruse for the family to come together one final time.
Its this decision that sees Billi and her parents end up in China, a place she hasnt visited in years.
Being back with family, Billi is clearly at home no matter where in the world she is but she struggles with the truth, believing they are doing Nai Nai a disservice in lying to her.
This battle between two cultures is the crux of the story and offers a new point of view for a Western audience, who perhaps recognise Billis concerns.
You dont want to feel guilty, Billis uncle shouts at her at one point as she clashes once again with the family over her insistence Nai Nai is told the truth.
Its our burden to bear, he continues, reminding Billi of the differences between Eastern and Western cultures, and that Nai Nais role as the matriarch means that its time for her family to shoulder some of the troubles for her, that the priority should be as a group and not for the individual.
The Farewell is Awkwafinas first leading role and she is truly a revelation, proving she is more than just the comedy sidekick.
Her relationship with Shuzhen Zhao who plays Nai Nai cRead More – Source