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What To Watch Thursday is Overdose’s weekly film injection: every Thursday we highlight film releases and film events that shouldn’t be missed! This week we discuss how high language barriers can get.
Anticipation: It’s been over a year since Lilting debuted at Sundance Film Festival where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Cinematography Award and received favorable reviews. After CinemAsia wetted our appetites for Asia and Asian diasporic cinema, Amsterdam audiences are ready for more.
Appreciation: With only 1.6% of the British population being from East and Southeast Asian descent, films about the Asian experience in Britain are all too rare. I know this well: until recently, I was one of the 1.6% as a British-Japanese living in London. So does Cambodia-born writer-director Hong Khaou, based in London since age 8, who has responded to this absence of representation with the wonderful low-budget feature debut Lilting.
Living in a London care home, Cambodian-Chinese woman Junn, played by Pei-pei Cheng (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), mourns the death of her only son Kai. Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Skyfall) is Richard, Kai’s British boyfriend, who’s unable to share her grief due to their language barrier but also because she was apparently unaware of their relationship. What follows is a touching cross-cultural tale on the need for communication at times of deep sorrow and loneliness, despite cultural difference. Mostly shot indoors, the astutely observed dialogue unearths deep-rooted complications of assimilation in diasporic life as well as difficulties some gay men still experience. As the film sways (or lilts) from scene to scene, it becomes apparent that its sensitive sense of rhythm is its strength, particularly in the ways it shows memories of the past have a tangible presence for the broken-hearted. Borrowing from John Sayles’ Lone Star (see interview ), Hong refuses to signpost the distinctions between present and past, preferring to pan or offer a ghostly cut. Although the film is about the so-called minorities in British society, its remarkable insight into the loneliness of grief will transcend all languages.
Length: 91 min.
Verdict: ★★★★ – Touching cross-cultural tale on grief and communication
Where to see: Rialto, Cinecenter
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