With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, September 26, 2014

LILTING opens today at the Village East Cinema in New York City

Strand Releasing
Written and Directed by Hong Khaou
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei Pei and Andrew Leung
United Kingdom, 2014, 91 minutes

Lilting, Cambodian-born writer/director Hong Khaou's poignant feature film debut and winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival's Best Cinematography Award, is scheduled to open in New York today, Friday, September 26 at the Village East Cinema and in Los Angeles on Friday, October 3rd at the Sundance Sunset Cinema and Laemmle’s Playhouse, with a national roll out to follow.

It's a remarkable film about love, loss, and memory. Indeed, one of the fabulous cinematic tricks employed by the film involves how powerful memory can make the past seem like it's taking place in the immediate present.

Cheng Pei Pei as Junn

Cheng Pei Pei (Come Drink with Me; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) stars as Junn, a Cambodian/Chinese woman living in a home for the elderly in London. She'd been put there, with the expectation that it would only be temporary, by her son Kai (Andrew Leung).

Junn, despite living in England for many years, has never learned to speak English and is, for all intents and purposes, totally unassimilated. Her situation is compounded because her son, who unbeknownst to her was gay, dies in an vehicular accident. Richard (Ben Whishaw), Kai's lover, visits her and tries to help her adjust to her situation, while keeping secret the real nature of his relationship with her son. Richard hires Vann (Naomi Christie, in her screen debut) as an interpreter so that he can communicate with Junn and also so Junn and her man-friend Alan (Peter Bowles) can communicate with one another.

Ben Whishaw as Richard

All the actors were very good, each performance seemingly effortless and totally natural.  But Cheng Pei Pei was absolutely incredible. She conveys so much with a look, a facial gesture, and her posture that one can get a strong sense of what she's saying -- always in Chinese -- even without reading the subtitles. Frankly, she deserves serious consideration for an Oscar nomination as Best Actress.

Prior to Lilting, 38 year-old Hong Khaou wrote and directed two short films which were selected for the Berlin and Sundance film festivals. In 2013, he was named one of Screen International’s "Stars of Tomorrow", and in 2014, he won the Sundance Institute/Mahinddra Global Filmmaking Award – supporting a new generation of storytellers – for his screenplay Monsoon. He was selected for this past Summer’s Sundance Lab for his next project. Lilting is certainly a most auspicious feature film debut for Khaou.

Vann (Naomi Christie_ and Richard (Ben Whishaw)

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.

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