Based on the real experiences of writer/director Wang, the twist in The Farewell is revealed immediately when Billi (Awkwafina) learns that her beloved grandmother “Nai Nai” (Shuzhen Zhou) has received a fatal cancer diagnosis.
But, as is common within the Chinese culture, Nai Nai isn’t not being told about her fate.
Instead, the family are all going to assemble for a hastily-advanced wedding between youngsters Hao Hao (Chen Han) and Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara). It’s the perfect ruse for a big bash and for everyone to say their – secret – goodbyes to the family matriarch.
Billi of course wants to fly from New York like her parents (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin) are doing, but they reckon, what with news about a scholarship coming and the fact that she’s still single and living cheque to cheque, perhaps she should stay put.
More than that, having been bought up in America, she surely won’t be able to keep her composure and dignity like a good Chinese girl: she’s bound to let the cat out of the bag.
Billi has other ideas, and, arriving at what’s essentially a tragic/happy reunion, she (and us) are then taken on a funny but often deeply emotional journey as we find that she isn’t the only one who has misgivings about this “good lie”.
Awkwafina is about as far from her role in Crazy Rich Asians as she can be here, and we’re with her all the way.
More than that, the delicate direction and the astoundingly good supporting cast – all of whom have their moment – make you complicit in the secret and you begin to wonder: should they tell Nai Nai?
You’ll have to go to find out what happens – and bring some tissues!