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In contemporary London, a Cambodian-Chinese mother mourns the untimely death of her son. Her world is further disrupted by the presence of a stranger. We observe their difficulties in trying to connect with each other without a common language as, through a translator, they begin to piece together memories of a man they both loved.Written by
If you think about it, we're constantly coming out to people; so, really, you should be good at it.
If only she liked you. It'd make this a lot easier, but for some reason she thinks you're a dick.
You love this dick.
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Hong Khaou has directed an assured and thoughtful debut full of subtle releases and deeply felt emotions.
Junn (Cheng Pei Pei) is a widowed Cambodian-Chinese woman who lives in an old peoples home in London, placed there by her only son Kai (Andrew Leung). With no other family, and having left Cambodia over 50 years ago, Junn is alone and unwilling to adapt to her surroundings or the people she's placed with.
She relies on Kai's attentions and affections, but her isolation becomes utterly complete with his unfortunate death. Junn knew that Kai lived in a house with Richard (Ben Wishaw), but Kai hadn't told her they were together as a couple. Grief-stricken himself, Richard feels duty-bound to help Junn, but they don't even share a common language let alone know much about each other.
Alan (Peter Bowles) resides at the home too and starts an unusual relationship with Junn where they talk to each other in their own languages, not really knowing what on earth the other is thinking or talking about apart from physical gestures. Richard tries to help this sweet pairing by hiring a translator in Vann (Naomi Christie), so that they can communicate with each other. Its a way in for Richard to get closer to Junn, who has her own reasons for disliking him.
'Lilting' is the debut from writer-director Hong Khaou, who shines a light on contrasting cultures in the capital. Grief is foremost in the minds of all concerned, Wishaw is wonderful as the achingly suppressed Richard, who gradually releases his grief the more he gets to know Junn, showing her just how much he loved Kai. Pei Pei plays the stoic mother perfectly, you can see the isolation, love and grief in her eyes.
In light of the subject matter, the overall mood of 'Lilting' is quite forgiving. Junn and Alan provide the most endearing moments as well as some awkwardly comical scenes especially when they confess their bad habits to each other. Dealing with such weighty issues as love, memory, language and mourning, Khaou has directed an assured and thoughtful film full of subtle releases and deeply felt emotions.
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