Sundance Film Review: Lilting

Posted January 17, 2014 in
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Photo: James Dewar

Lilting
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Hong Khaou

Lilting is a fitting title for a film comprised of conversations. Director Hong Khaou beautifully captures this unique story of Junn, a woman whose son—her only connection to the world around her—dies tragically, leaving her in discomfort and suspension in a rest home as her deceased son’s boyfriend, Richard, struggles to help her while coming to terms with his own loss and guilt. This is a film driven by dialogue, split between English and Mandarin, highlighted by creative editing—and its best moments show the problems and breakthroughs in communication between the characters. Though in a Q&A, the director expressed initial concern over drawn-out monologues, the pacing of the conversations—potentially troublesome since the crux of the film is a language barrier between the Chinese Junn and English Richard aided by a translator—is seamless, and Hong Khaou awards the audience with plenty of comedic respites from the drama. Chinese actor Pei-Pei Cheng shines in her role as the mother, and brings the grace and subtlety necessary of her character. Ben Whishaw also gives an emotion-driven performance, never over-the-top and with just enough discomfort in his mannerisms to make the friction in his relationship with Junn stand out, but not overwhelm the scenes. Outside of the great performances, Lilting is beautifully filmed, beginning and ending in sweeping, satisfying one-shot scenes of the impeccable sets. Hong Khaou said that much of the plot and sentiment stemmed from his own loss of his father as a young boy, and though the feeling of loss is very tangible, it plays second stage to Hong Khaou’s depiction of communication, and how it often transcends language. The World Dramatic Competition has a deserving winner in this one—good luck, Lilting. –Esther Meroño

Screenings:

Time: 1.17 6 PM Venue: Tower Theatre, Salt Lake City
Time: 1.18 6:30 PM Venue: Peery’s Egyptian Theater, Ogden
Time: 1.22 3 PM Venue: Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City
Time: 1.24 4 PM Venue: Redstone Cinema 2, Park City

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