Screened as part of NZIFF 2014

Lilting 2014

Directed by Hong Khaou Fresh

Ben Whishaw brings moving sensitivity to this lyrical tale of a young gay man tragically bereft of the love of his life and craving reconciliation with his lover’s old-school Chinese-Cambodian mother.

UK In English
91 minutes CinemaScope / DCP

Director, Screenplay


Dominic Buchanan


Ula Pontikos


Mark Towns

Production designer

Miren Marañón

Costume designer

Camille Benda


Stuart Earl


Ben Whishaw (Richard)
Cheng Pei-pei (Junn)
Andrew Leung (Kai)
Morven Christie (Margaret)
Peter Bowles (Alan)


Sundance 2014


A performance of exquisite sympathetic imagination from Ben Whishaw makes this sad, sad story an absorbing and heartening one. He plays Richard, a young gay man bereft by the accidental death of Kai, the love of his life. His quest for consolation compels him to seek out Kai’s only living relative, his mother, Junn, played – dauntingly and against type – by martial arts legend Cheng Pei-pei. A Chinese-Cambodian immigrant who speaks virtually no English, Junn has never acknowledged her son’s sexuality, nor found anything good to say about the young man he left her for. Devastated by grief, she has recently moved to a home. Richard struggles to connect with her via an interpreter (Naomi Christie). He even pays for translation services for a retirement-home Lothario (Peter Bowles) keen to relieve her loneliness. Junn’s resistance is dogged and blunt. The road to any reconciliation is rugged and unpredictable, but Richard’s need to get through to her rarely wavers. As poignant flashbacks make clear, it’s the one final thing he can do for Kai. Whishaw’s ardent portrait of a broken heart finding ease in such selflessness is something very special.