“I love the ridiculous. Secrets and death tend to lend themselves to being dark yet funny,” says writer and director Lulu Wang. Her self-proclaimed love of absurd humor with a touch of pathos is evident in her latest film, The Farewell(2019). Similar to Posthumous (2014), her first feature, The Farewell focuses on trying to keep a secret.
In The Farewell, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), the grandmother, is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The prognosis is grim. She is given three months to live, as was Lulu’s grandmother, whose story is fictionalized in The Farewell. Nai Nai’s extended family decides to shield her and never tell her about the diagnosis. The film focuses on this secret, and the conflict Billi (Awkwafina, in a role based on Wang) has keeping Nai Nai in the dark about her diagnosis when visiting her in China.
When I chatted with Wang, she was sheltering in place at her home in Los Angeles. She was busy writing for the upcoming Amazon original series The Expatriates, based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s novel of the same name.