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Film / Lilting

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Lilting is a 2014 British drama film written and directed by Cambodian-born British director Hong Khaou. It centers around an aging Chinese-Cambodian woman (Cheng Pei-Pei) mourning the untimely loss of her son. Despite a language, generational, and experiential barrier, she forges a relationship with a stranger (Ben Whishaw) who also loved her son.

Lilting debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it and its lead performances were critically praised. It won an award for cinematography.

Lilting provides examples of...

  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: Junn is put into one by Kai which she despises. It's made even more depressing by the fact that its decor is designed to look like the 1950s so that the occupants might "feel young again."
  • Bury Your Gays: Kai's premature death just as everything in his life is about to improve.
  • December–December Romance: Between Alan and Junn.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Richard makes admissions aloud in English he then quickly requests Vann not translate.
  • Inscrutable Oriental: Junn. While some of her stoic aloofness can be attributed to not speaking English, she's the least emotive character in the film, particularly in contrast to Alan's plodding stuffiness and Richard's fragility.
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  • Language Barrier: A central point of the film. There is one between Junn and Alan and Junn and Richard, though ultimately, they manage to communicate even without Vann's service as a translator.
  • Language of Love: Junn and Alan don't speak the same language, but still manage to carry on a romantic relationship. Later, Richard offers up Vann's services as a translator so that they can understand each other.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Junn outlives Kai, whose life is cruelly cut short because of an auto accident.
  • Straight Gay: Richard and Kai.