Lilting (2014) Film Review

Lilting (2014)

Cast: Cheng Pei-Pei, Ben Wishaw, Andrew Leung, Naomi Christie

Director: Hong Khaou

Synopsis:  Lilting is an English set film about a mother bonding with  partner after her son has passed away. Richard, the partner, works with a translator to get to know the mother, Junn and her love interest Allen. Junn does not know that her son is gay, nor does she speak English; this makes it difficult for Richard to help Junn and still keep their love a secret. Throughout the movie we are shown flashbacks to days when Kai was alive, and how Junn and Richard work with the translator to remember him together. The movie is about different kinds of love and loss, and the need for secrecy and yet how respect can grow from unlikely relationships.

Review: Last week I attended the Reelout Film Festival.  I watched the movie “Lilting” and was touched by the powerful relationship that grows between Junn and Richard.  Kai kept Junn in the dark about his relationship with Richard, and when he dies it is hard for Junn to understand why Richard is so adamant about helping her.  Cheng Pei-Pei (Junn) perfectly portrays the traditional Chinese mother. Junn was raised in a very traditional environment where homosexuality was not encouraged. Kai was also raised in a traditional environment, and fears his mother’s binary thinking. His fear of her binary thinking made it much harder for him to be able to come out to her and have her accept him and Richard as a couple seeing as she was not very fond of Richard to begin with. I believe that Kai was more focused on his mother becoming more unhappy after coming out to her that he would rather keep her in the dark to give her less to worry about.  In the scenes where Junn is talking to Kai we can see her face tighten every time Richard is mentioned.  In the final scene we find out this is because Junn hated having to fight for her son’s attention.  She felt abandoned being put into a care home by her son, and then knowing the reason she could not move in with him was because of Richard made it very difficult for her to accept Richard. This explains her hostile attitude towards Richard when he first begins to help her. She has been so used to seeing him as the “bad guy” that she could not wrap her head around him being the person who helped her work through her grief period, and come into a state of being able to look back on her memories of her son and smile at the cheerful optimistic man he was.

Richard works with a translator to work with Junn.  The translator helps Junn to talk to her friend Allen and to converse with Richard. I think that the character of Allen adds a second dimension to the movie, because we are shown the homosexual relationship using the flashbacks, and then shown a heterosexual relationship between Allen and Junn. Richard hires the translator in part to help Junn’s relationship with Allen move forward considering they do not speak the same language. In almost every conversation between Junn and Richard, Junn cannot understand why Richard is helping her. He wants to create a connection between the two of them so he can help her become comfortable with him enough to come live with him so she does not have to live in the home.

There are many times when Richard wants to tell her about his sexual orientation and how Kai was more than just his best friend. In the final scene of the movie, Junn goes over to Richard’s house for dinner. In this scene Richard comes out to Junn and tells her about his relationship with Kai. The suspense is built up throughout the whole film about how Junn will react through the flashbacks with Kai.  After Richard tells Junn she simply smiles, and they converse through their own languages without the aid of the translator.  I think this scene is extremely important for the movie because we can finally see Junn accept Richard and accept the relationship that was between Richard and Kai.  I think the reason why she seems to accept this so naturally is because now that Kai has died she can understand with judgment what made him so happy to be in England, and why he was always so positive.  She can now see that Kai was trying to make her as happy as he was.

I truly believe that this festival is a great way spread ideas of equality and have concepts such as sexual rights and racialization be more open to the greater community in Kingston.  Sometimes in first year it is easy to get caught up in school and friends, so I found it was also a great way for me to get out of my usual circle and see what else Kingston has to offer other than the opportunities that are offered through Queen’s. Movies like this are a reminder that we are all human beings worthy of respect and love, and no person should feel the need to hide who they are, whether it’s to their family members or others.



“Lilting”. Reelout. Reelout Arts Project Inc. Web. 10 Feb 2015.

“Lilting.” IMDb. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. <>.


3 thoughts on “Lilting (2014) Film Review

  1. This was an interesting film review, and I get the sense that you genuinely enjoyed the film. I think you did a great job giving a descriptive summary of the film. However, I would have been interested to have a slightly more critical understanding of the film. By critical I don’t necessarily mean negative, just that by considering the bias of the film a little more you might have been able to provide a stronger analysis at times. For example, you identify that throughout the film there was a juxtaposition between a gay relationship depicted in flashbacks and a heterosexual relationship between Junn and Allen. This is an interesting observation, however, I’d like to know what you think the further implications of this comparison are. Did you think the film was trying to show similarities or differences between these relationships? What was the stance of the filmmakers on the comparison of these two relationships?

    As well, you mention at the end of your review that this film could contribute to a spread of understanding about issues of racialization. I think that is a very fair point to make, given the depiction of an interracial couple in the film. However, I would have been interested to see that idea drawn out a little more throughout your analysis. For example, how did issues of race and sexuality intersect in the film? Overall you did a wonderful job, and keep in mind that I didnt’ see this film so my comments on your analysis are all based on a limited knowledge. I look forward to reading more of your blogs!


  2. I love how you organized your review, it is very clearly sectioned! You provide a great summary of the film. However, I had to read the synopsis a few times in order to understand who each character was – try to make sure you introduce each character before using them in a sentence (Kai in particular).

    You use the term “traditional Chinese mother”- without a thorough explanation of what you mean by this it could come off as a stereotypical assumption to the reader. I don’t believe that was your intention, I just think that a more clear definition of what you meant would clarify your point. Addressing your point about the Chinese race would have been a good way to introduce the relevance of the intersectionality of gender and race to your analysis!

    I really enjoyed you scene analysis, I think that you touched on what seems to be a very important scene in the film. The theme of acceptance is a great way to lead into your discussion of the festival in general! I think you draw on some great points about the spread of equality and the new opportunity that the festival offers. Overall, great review! I would love to see the film.


  3. I thought that this film review was great! I think you did a great job at using descriptive language to convey the film to your audience. Although you did a good job at explaining the plot of the film, I would have enjoyed it slightly more had you gone deeper. I would have liked to hear about what you liked and disliked about the film, what statement you thought that the film was making on society, and what biases the filmmakers might have in regards to gender, sex, or race. I also wish that you hadn’t revealed the ending of the film!!

    I liked your concluding paragraph and I’m glad that you got a chance to break out of the ‘Queen’s bubble’- I know that in first year sometimes it is difficult to branch out but when you do it is usually very rewarding.

    Based on your review I would definitely be interested in watching Lilting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s