Lilting is an emotional and rewarding tear-jerker

Ben Whishaw stars in Lilting as Richard, a deeply sad young man trying to work through grief. He recently lost his lover, Kai (Andrew Leung), unexpectedly and far too early. Kai’s mother, Junn (Pei-Pei Cheng) is also in great pain as a result of the loss. Kai sent her to a nursing home temporarily while he worked up the nerve to come out to her and invite her to live with Richard and himself. Unfortunately, he died before he had the opportunity.

Richard is deeply concerned with his late lover’s mother well-being. He knows that Junn is unhappy in the nursing home and would like to offer her a way out. The problem is that she has no idea how important Richard was in her son’s life. In fact, Junn, thinking that Richard was just a roommate of Kai’s, seems to think that he was a bad influence on her son. Richard doesn’t want to betray Kai by revealing the truth about their relationship. On top of that, he and Junn don’t even speak the same language.

In an effort to get closer to Junn, Richard hires a translator (Naomi Christie) to help them communicate. But as time goes on and Junn becomes increasingly agitated and suspicious of Richard’s motivations, the truth starts simmering to the surface, practically begging to be revealed.

Lilting is a melancholy, but ultimately uplifting tear-jerker filled with likeable characters that help the emotions sink in. The only villain of the piece, the source of the film’s conflict, is Junn and even she’s sympathetic. She’s unreasonably difficult and treats Richard as an irritation even though he’s on a saintly mission to help her, but she’s also grief-stricken and all alone in a strange country where she’s not able to communicate.

Director Hong Khaou has a poetic sensibility and the cast is uniformly excellent, particularly Whishaw. He sells his character’s admirable mix of deep sadness and unyielding altruism so well that it’s practically a guarantee that your heart will break for him. Lilting is a touching meditation on death and grief that never neglects to celebrate life and love simultaneously.

Watch the trailer for Lilting below. The film is now available on Dekkoo.

Short Film Spotlight: Spring

Writer-director Hong Khaou’s 13-minute short film Spring could be either a horror-thriller or a wildly erotic celebration of how exploring one’s kinks through BDSM can be a liberating experience. It’s hard to tell, even once the film has ended, and that’s all by design.

Chris O’Donnell (no, not the one you’re thinking of) stars as Joe, a young man who clearly wants to explore his submissive side, but has some reservations. He’s particularly nervous during his first meeting with Tim (Jonathan Keane), a handsome, slightly older stranger who assures him that he’s “in safe hands.” Joe isn’t so sure, but he’s just curious enough to find out.

For Joe, this potential encounter all about the sexual thrill. He relishes kneeling in front of his older master, taking in his scent. Tim, however, is more interested in the psychological aspects of their coupling. Once they have arrived back at what may or may not be Tim’s residence, a cavernous home with plenty of empty rooms to explore (and no one to hear you scream), a struggle plays out between their very different desires, after which, nothing will be the same as before.

Khaou builds tension from the very first frames of Spring and never lets up. There’s no moment during this stylish short where we’re not wondering if Tim is a sociopath who plans to murder – or at least deeply psychologically scar – Joe. His experience, equal fear and excitement, becomes our own.

Spring earned great acclaim at film festivals all around the world when it debuted in 2011 and it’s easy to see why. Hong Khaou’s next project was the 2014 feature-length film Lilting, a deeply emotional drama staring Ben Whishaw as a young man trying to form a relationship with his deceased lover’s Chinese-Cambodian mother. We highly recommend both and can’t wait to see what he does next.

Spring is available not on Dekkoo.

Chris O'Donnell and Jonathan Keane in Spring