Strong performances elevate a moving story of a man connecting with the mother of his dead lover who wasn’t aware that her son was gay. Director Hong Khaou use of language barriers between characters works very well in showing how connections form between people of different cultures. All the characters are trying to find a way to communicate with each other, to connect. Love is a force that supposedly connects people beyond anything, you may not understand what someone says or that person may be dead but you can be connected to them through love.
Lilting isn’t about the death of Kai, it’s about how his loved ones that survive without him. His mother, Junn and his boyfriend, Richard didn’t have a strong relationship before. Junn didn’t like Richard and depended on Kai a great deal, with his death it shown she feels completely alone. Richard doesn’t want to abandon Junn, his love for Kai making him take on the guilt, doing what ever he can to help her. When discovering Junn is in courtship with a man from her retirement home, Richard takes the opportunity to make her life better.
To establish a dialogue between Junn and her lover Alan, Richard hires a translator to help them communicate with each other, to learn about themselves. Khaou’s use of major dialogue being relayed between three characters works very well, the use of subtitles is limited. Richard doesn’t want Junn to know that he and Kai were lovers but Ben Whishaw’s performance shows he’s struggling keeping in his grief, trying to pretend that he’s just a friend.
It’s a good film that main takeaway is in its performances, Cheng Pei-pei as Junn and Ben Whishaw as Richard are incredible. Their portrayal of grief is done very realistically, their outbursts never over the top and Khaou’s way of developing the strained relationship for better or worse keeps the film interesting.