Lilting (UK, 2014)

Trying to connect

Trying to connect

Hong Khaou’s (he wrote and directed) debut film, from the admirable low-budget Microwave scheme, is a touching story of grief and cultural difference. We are introduced to Junn (Cheng Pei Pei, who played Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), an elderly Chinese woman, although she’s lived in England for many years she doesn’t speak English, who’s been put in a ‘home’ by her son because he wants to live with his male partner. The son knows his mother would disapprove if he ‘came out’; presumably, though it’s not stated, this is as much cultural homophobia as generational.

The limited number of locations, due no doubt to budget restrictions, works for a ‘chamber piece’ though the script would have benefitted from a fleshing out Vann’s role. Played by newcomer Naomi Christie, Vann translates for Junn in her conversations with Richard, her son’s lover, and her would-be lover, the cleverly cast Peter Bowles (still the rake in his late 70s). The triumph of the film, however, is Ben Wishaw as Richard. He is an intensely physical actor, though the movements are minimal they are very expressive. It was a coup for the producers to get such a high-profile artist for a low-profile film and it’s worth seeing if only for his brilliance.

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