The Farewell resists any temptation to be a wacky, extended family comedy and instead stays true to the sadness of its central premise. A grandmother in China (Shuzhen Zhou) is dying of cancer. Following tradition, her family members don’t tell her, a choice that rankles her American-raised granddaughter Billi (Awkwafina) when she comes to visit. To be fair, The Farewell is lightly funny, including a delicate visual gag staged by writer-director Lulu Wang in which the family members take a series of wrong turns while carrying umbrellas on their way to the hospital. You would think that Awkwafina, given her comic persona, would bring a fair amount of humor, but instead she impressively burrows into a somber portrait of a young woman whose inner, East-West conflict comes to a head in this emotionally volatile moment. Along with Wang, Awkwafina emphasizes sad silences and uneasy interactions over broad gestures. When the movie does open up, then, it has earned its right to squeeze your heart—especially during one powerhouse moment when the grandson (Chen Han), whose wedding is supposed to be the excuse for extended family to come visit, can no longer maintain his game face and breaks down at his own party. By keeping her illness a secret, the grandmother’s family means to bear her burden for her; The Farewell recognizes the true weight of such a load.