By Mary Sollosi
May 07, 2019 at 09:00 AM EDT
07/12/19
type
  • Movie
Genre

Have you called your grandma lately? Because you’re about to.

A24 unveiled the first trailer for the Sundance breakout The Farewell on Tuesday, ahead of the affecting dramedy’s July release. Awkwafina stars in the indie as Billi, a young Chinese-American woman who finds out that her beloved grandmother has cancer. Determined to conceal the diagnosis from the matriarch, Billi’s family contrives to plan a wedding for her cousin in China, just to give everyone an excuse to see Nai Nai one last time.

The story, teased as being “based on an actual lie,” was inspired by events from writer-director Lulu Wang’s own life. After initially pitching the idea around Hollywood, “the instinct from a lot of companies was to make it broad,” the filmmaker tells EW. “The direction that a lot of people wanted to take it, was, ‘Well, why wouldn’t she be the bride?’”

But Wang didn’t want to make “the Chinese version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” as potential collaborators kept suggesting. After connecting with a producer on This American Life, she shared the story on a 2016 episode of the podcast, which attracted producer Chris Weitz and the team at Big Beach Films, who ultimately produced Wang’s true vision for the movie. “It was really important to me to make this film not according to sort of the constructs of a genre, but according to emotions and the authenticity of the experience,” she says.

Emotional though the history is, there’s real humor at the heart of the film too. “For me, what was so important was more the absurdity of the situation,” Wang says about finding the tricky tone. “A lot of the silent awkwardness, and the juxtaposition of the interior of the character vs. this external performance that she had to put on.”

Luckily, she found a leading lady who knew how to tap into that sense of comedy. The Farewell marks Awkwafina’s first dramatic starring role, but upon reading the script, she felt she had no choice. “I really never thought that a script like this would exist,” says the actress, who was inspired by her real-life connection to her own Chinese grandmother. “I never thought that it would come to me; I never thought that it would be helmed by a female Asian-American. So this was very special all around.”

Check out the trailer above. The Farewell hits theaters July 12.

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