FILM REVIEW | Lilting Reeks of good intentions but never really takes off.
Junn is a rather disgruntled 60-something year old Chinese woman who has been co-coerced against her will into moving into a care facility for Seniors by Kai her son. The opening scenes of this wee British drama see the unhappy mother berating her only child for her present predicament, which is, exasperated by the fact that although she has lived in London for decades she has never learned to speak English. ★ ★
It is soon revealed that Kai had recently died under mysterious circumstances and what we are watching now are in fact her memories. Richard who was Kai’s boyfriend for the past few years feels it’s his duty to take over from his late lover and starts to regularly visit Junn in his place. The trouble is Junn never knew her son was gay (or refused to admit it anyway) and really loathes Richard who she felt usurped her place in Kai’s life. And to make matters worse as Richard cannot speak Mandarin, the two of them have no way to communicate.
When Junn gets hit on by the home’s resident lothario, Richard seeing a glimmer of hope of some happiness for the perpetually melancholic Junn, hires a translator to help the lovebird’s potential courtship. It also serves as a means for him to start a dialogue with the old woman too, which is no easy task, as she seemingly has no concept of the fact that Richard is grieving for his loss too.
It’s a very slight story and as it is essentially about these strained relationships between different cultures and generations, a lot of the emotions literally get lost in the translating. Richard seems to spend much of his time in tears whilst on the other hand Junn just sits and stares with he big wide eyes.
This debut movie from filmmaker Hong Khaou reeks of good intentions but never really takes off. He had the good fortune to cast veteran Chinese acting legend Pei Pei Cheng as Junn, and had managed to snare Ben Whishaw to play Richard. Most indie films would kill to get stars like this, but in this case, Whishaw’s uneven performance seemed to unsettle the balance between him and the other actors, particularly Andrew Leung, who played his on screen boyfriend Kai.