Jose here. Director Hong Khaou’s touching drama Lilting centers on the ways in which we deal with grief, filtered through two characters who are in pain over the loss of the same person but who can’t share this pain, because they don’t speak the same language. The death of Kai (Andrew Leung) leaves his Cambodian-Chinese mother Junn (Cheng Pei-pei) completely devastated, but little does she know that Kai’s boyfriend Richard (Ben Whishaw) is going through the same. As he tries to fulfill the protecting-role Kai would expect of him, he finds Junn to be reluctant to his attention.
Tenderly directed by Khaou, who with this makes his feature length directorial debut, Lilting is a quiet, yet poignant, chamber piece anchored by the subdued, beautiful performances of Cheng and Whishaw. Exploring themes of cultural shock, intolerance and rediscovering life’s worth, the film is one of the most unique portraits of love to be put on the screen this year. I spoke to director Khaou, who eloquently elaborated on the film’s origins, the process of making his first film and how his own upbringing shaped this project.
How did you decide that this would be your first feature film? Did you conceive it as a short originally?