Film review: Lilting

2014

 

Little is shown in the cinema of how much bereaved people struggle to be kind to one another while containing the fury churned up by loss. We tie ourselves in knots. We fail. Mired in shame and remorse, we have no choice but to keep moving forward.

 

The films that have ventured into this territory have been high drama affairs. August: Osage County or, with even more struggle, Ordinary People, come to mind.

 

Lilting is unexpectedly soft, gentle, even uplifting. It is the first feature film by writer and director Hong Khaou and stars Ben Wishaw, Pei-Pei Cheng, and Andrew Leung, with excellent support from Naomi Christie and Peter Bowles.

 

After Richard’s partner Kai is killed in a road accident, Richard tries to get to know Kai’s mother. That Kai’s mother does not speak English and doesn’t know that her son was gay loom ominously but in his grief Richard sees only what they have in common. His attempts at easing her isolation initially seem like a somewhat intrusive attempt to keep in touch with Kai, but we learn that his concern for this elderly woman, alone in a strange country is long-standing, as is her dislike of him.

 

The anticipated fireworks are a slow burn and go off in unexpected ways. However there is neither lasting destruction nor easy forgetting. What we are shown is two, actually three, characters who are not perfect but are fundamentally compassionate.

 

To the side of the main action is a senior Casanova who probably gets a much rougher deal than he deserves. That’s one of the things with grief: we work so hard at sharing the good in our hearts because we know we can’t always control how we’ll share out the pain.

 

First published in Widows and Widowers magazine, Issue 13

 

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