Movie Review – Lilting (2014)

Director: Hong Khaou

Stars: Pei-Pei Cheng, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Leung, Peter Bowles, Naomi Christie

Two strangers from different cultures are brought together after the death of a man they both loved.

Lilting is a slow-paced but beautiful film about the way people connect with each other. After Kai’s (Leung) untimely death, his mother Junn (Cheng) is stuck in a nursing home and replays her last conversation with him over and over again in her mind. Then Richard (Whishaw) visits her. He was Kai’s brother and wants to do right by the both of them, but Junn never knew that her son was gay and she doesn’t speak the language, so Richard has to employ the help of Vann (Christie) to try and bridge the gap.

All the actors do a great job here, and the director uses some neat tricks to make the audience a part of the film. Often there are subtitles but occasionally there aren’t. The camera focuses on Junn when the other two are speaking English, and we see how lost she is. Then, when Junn and Vann are speaking a different language to each other we experience how it feels because there are no subtitles. Through flashbacks we get to know Kai and we see how he lived two separate lives with his mother and his boyfriend, and this spills over into the anguish that Whishaw displays as he’s on the verge of breaking down every time he has to refer to Kai simply as his ‘best friend’.

And yet over the course of the film the barriers are broken. By reading this you may think it’s a sad and depressing film but it’s also very funny in places. Vann is used to allow Junn and her friend Alan develop their romantic connection, and this leads to many humorous moments for up until then they was no way for them to communicate verbally with each other.

It shows how difficult it can be for some people to be in a different culture, and Junn is lost when her son dies because she has no way to connect with the world around her. This is a perfect film for a rainy afternoon, very very good.


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