Lilting

DIRECTOR: Hong Khaou

Expected to attend: Director Hong Khaou

Exploring matters of lost love, memory, and cross-cultural barriers with great emotion, Lilting tells the story of a bereaved mother and her late son’s longtime lover, each attempting to move on after the death of their beloved. Kai, a young man of French-Cambodian and Chinese descent, has recently died in his adopted country of England. Beset by grief, his elderly mother Junn, (who speaks little English) fantasizes conversations with her son, alternately berating him for putting her in a home and shyly discussing a new relationship she’s found there with a British man. Kai’s similarly bereft lover, Richard, meanwhile, reaches out to Junn despite the fact that she’s hostile to him and doesn’t know about his relationship with Kai. Attempting to form a bond, he hires a translator to assist with conversations between himself and Junn and between Junn and her new suitor. The issue of communication is one of the film’s key themes, and writer-director Hong Khaou reveals how trying to make things clear can often muddy the waters. Striving to make an emotional connection while working through his own issues of sadness and abandonment, Richard risks alienating the one person who can bring him closer to Kai. And Junn does not make it easy, refusing to confront the emotional truths that lie in front of her and relying on the language barrier to protect herself.

Lilting conveys a complex set of relationships with delicate power and humor. This moving battle of wills in mourning is brought to extraordinary life through a carefully wrought script deploying flashbacks and competing memories, graceful cinematography by Ula Pontikos, and incredibly rich performances by Ben Whishaw and Pei-Pei Cheng (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

— Rod Armstrong

In English, Mandarin with English subtitles.

This film is eligible for the Frameline38 Wells Fargo First Feature Award.

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F128

Co-presented by:
Gay Asian Pacific Alliance

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