Film review: Lilting (4 out of 5 stars)

Pei-pei Cheng and Ben Whishaw star in Lilting.
Pei-pei Cheng and Ben Whishaw star in Lilting.

It’s rather heartening to see that there are directors out there with skill and the courage to tackle subjects that may not be considered mainstream.

Hong Khaou has written and directed a gentle, thoughtful analysis of grief and loneliness.

This may not sound like much fun, but Khaou has the ability to not drag his audience down into depression.

There is much to admire in this effort and the way the story is carefully provided, piece by piece and the emotion piled on layer by layer.

We are introduced to the main characters, Juun, a Cambodian Chinese widow (played by Pei-pei Cheng) who has recently lost her only son Kai (Andrew Leung).

Her mind wanders off to the last time she saw him and the difficult conversation they had.

He put her in sheltered accommodation which she dislikes, especially as, although speaking six languages, English isn’t one of them.

Something else that she doesn’t know is that Kai was gay and the friend and flat-mate he talked about was in fact his partner, Richard, played by Ben Whishaw.

In an attempt to bridge the language gap, Richard employs a young woman to act as translator.

However, there are deep emotions to deal with, with both Juun and Richard united in their intense grief, but unable to communicate it.

The journey the director takes us on to arrive at a very convincing and satisfying ending is full of emotion, and some gentle humour.

In fact the lighter moments are provided by stalwart British actor Peter Bowles as Juun’s friend, trying to create a relationship in which neither person understands the other.

Whishaw and Cheng are superb and give this film the depth of emotion, although their amazing ability does put some of the supporting roles in the shadows.

However, it is Hong Khaou who deserves the greatest credit for the story and some beautiful shots that break up the movie.

Film details: Lilting (15) 88mins

Director: Hong Khaou

Starring: Pei-pei Cheng, Ben Whishaw, Peter Bowles

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol