by Hiko Mitsuzuka
Cultures clash and love gets lost in translation in writer-director Hong Khaou's devastatingly beautiful Lilting.
British thesp Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, Skyfall) plays Richard, a Londoner reeling from the tragic death of his lover Kai (newcomer Andrew Leung). In an attempt to establish a connection and build a relationship with Kai's Cambodian Chinese mother, Junn (veteran actress Pei-Pei Cheng), Richard hires a translator (Naomi Christie, below) and visits the retirement community where she lives.
It is there where we're introduced to Alan (Peter Bowles), the British man who finds himself smitten with Junn. While Bowles offers some much-needed comic relief, he also has his chance to shine in a poignant scene that subtly comments on a different kind of loss. The story also finds an unexpected friendship develop between Richard and his translator, Vann. Christie quietly throws herself into the fray.
Overall, the film delicately observes both Richard and Junn's difficulties in trying to connect with one another without a common language -- Junn never approved of Richard whose patience gets tested -- but soon enough, they begin to piece together memories of a man they both loved. Flashbacks seamlessly reflect on Kai's struggle to come out to his mother and Junn's reliving of the fateful day that took away her only child.
Both Whishaw and Cheng beautifully play off one other, each one getting a chance to inhabit their respective roles with gorgeous grace.
RATING: 4/5 stars (and 1 Kleenex)
- Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)