“He simply who he is. I am who i am”
Junn (Pei-pei Cheng) an elderly cambodian-chinese woman mourns the untimely death of his only son, Kai (Andrew Leung). She’s stranded in modern day England, a foreign land away from her home, in the home for elders which she despised and full of strangers. Junn got visited by Richard (Ben Whishaw) a friend of Kai she despises. Richard efforts to connect with Junn only got harder without common language to communicate or share the connection they share for the Kai.
The film immediately opened with a hauntingly sad note. We saw Junn talking to Kai in a room with sepia colored wallpaper. They laughs, they talk and share jokes, clearly we saw their bond as Mother and Son who shared loving relationship. And all of the sudden we come to realize that the conversation they just had were just a figment of Junn imagination. With this sombre mood, the tone of the film continues along the same path, quiet and sentimental. The arrival of Richard was not something she felt thrilled about. Even before the death of her son, Junn never really like Richard and his small apartment that kept Junn away from her son. Glimpses of their respective past and fond memories of Kai interspersed with each exchanges and conversation. Soon both of them connects through loneliness and shared grief.
Deceptively simple yet complex with interweaving variations of cross-cultural sensitivity (perhaps, insensitivity), age disparity, and language barrier. Subtle waves of emotions of each characters give the film delicate intensity. Irrelevant conversations and meetings throughout the films contributes to how the two lead character (Junn and Richard) took their stance against each other. Sensitive and loving Richard was like water, slowly infiltrate Junn’s unrelenting stoic exterior. Their smallest gestures made up for the film. Those small gestures are the ones that speaks volumes and creates the moments, the conversations are only giving the extra explanatory details. Secondary arc in the story could be distracting at times, despite giving a refreshing lightness to balance out the main arc.
Chang was ever the strong woman who held steadfastly to her roots and tradition, making the climatic moments when the walls have crumbled that much more heartwrenching. Ben Whishaw wholeheartedly brought his range of emotion to bring Richard conflicted emotions (and frustrations) towards Junn. This is the kind of film that really shows his charisma and skill as an actor.Perfectly capturing the mood of the film is the cinematography of Urzula Pontikos, who worked with Andrew Haigh in Weekend (2011). Pontikos lends the film an air of ethereal fragility that perfect to emphasis this delicately emotional feature. P
There’s a nod to Wong Kar Wai films in Lilting. Perhaps it was the prominent music or the dance or perhaps its nuance. But the strength of Lilting is far beyond that. The exploration of grief and loneliness was precisely controlled and subtle. This film is the debut feature of Cambodian-born, british director Hong Khaou. Although he did not win, his work as director in Lilting were nominated in Dramatic-World Cinema Grand Jury Prize category in Sundance Film Festival. I’m excited to see what he’s going to bring next.
GENRE Romance, Drama
DIRECTOR Hong Khaou | PRODUCER Dominic Buchanan | WRITER Hong Khaou | CINEMATOGRAPHER Urzula Pontikos | MUSIC Stuart Earl | EDITOR Mark Towns | STUDIO BBC Films, Film London Microwave, Skillset | DISTRIBUTOR Artificial Eye | COUNTRY United Kingdom | RUNNING TIME 91 minutes | RELEASE January 16, 2014 (Sundance)
STARRING Pei-pei Cheng, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Leung
DID YOU KNOW? The flower that we saw on Junn’s table at the very beginning and the very end of the film is Hydrangea or Ajisai (紫陽花 ) or 绣球花. In japanese language of flower (hanakotoba) the ajisai represents pride, which is a perfect symbolism for Junn character. While in chinese, the flower represents love, gratitude, and enlightment, which what hopefully brought to each character (and hopefully to the viewers too) at the conclusion of the film.