Grief, love and coming out collide: Review of the movie Lilting


Grief is a funny thing and a topic many people shy away from. It can isolate us from others as we try to make sense of who and what we’ve lost, and while we try to cope with intense feelings that may make it difficult for us to be around others. Yet, at the same time, it can make our bonds with others stronger. Stronger with those that still remain as we continue to make sense of the one we’ve lost, and ruminate and discuss decisions that were made while they were alive. In essence, this is what the movie Lilting is about.

The movie Lilting explores the experience of grief and how this can be complicated by not coming out to the family of your loved one. Lilting explores this through the relationship of a Cambodian-Chinese mother, Junn – who is grieving for the death of her son – and her son’s boyfriend, Richard. Although riddled by grief, Richard reaches out to Junn, even though she doesn’t know that Richard was her son’s partner.

Through the lens of the relationship between Richard and Junn, the movie Lilting examines a range of cross-cultural topics. It is an examination of older age, cross-cultural experiences of homosexuality, the issue of small family units that experience the loss of one of their members, sexuality between people living in residential care settings, and the feelings of acute loneliness and isolation that first-generation migrants can experience.

Lilting also explores the dilemma that many LGBT people face: feeling the need to protect your relationship with your parents by avoiding coming out to them, but in the process compromising opportunities for allowing your same-sex partner to become part of your family. The movie also explores a topic that is particularly relevant to many of us given the rapidly aging populations around the world: protecting and looking after aging parents, and the dilemma of working out how best to do this.

The film, set in London, was directed by Hong Khaou and features a wonderful cast. An outstanding performance was provided by Cheng Pei Pei, who plays Junn, the Chinese-Cambodian mother, alongside Ben Whishaw who plays the grieving boyfriend, Richard. The son, Kai, is played by Andrew Leung, and the translator called Vann, who is called in to help Junn and Richard communicate, was played by Naomi Christie. Peter Bowles plays Alan, who is Junn’s romantic interest.

Lilting, an intimate portrait of two strangers brought together by the common language of grief

The film is presented by Film London and released in association with BBC Films, Stink, Sums Film & Media.

In the video below, Director Hong Khaou and actors Ben Whishaw, Peter Bowles, Morven Christie, Naomi Christie and Andrew Leung discuss Lilting, an intimate portrait of two strangers brought together by the common language of grief, at the BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival opening night gala

More films on Pink Families

Image | Punk Toad

Directed by: Hong Khaou. Produced by: Dominic Buchanan. Written by: Hong Khaou. Starring: Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei-pei, Andrew Leung, Morven Christie, Naomi Christie, Peter Bowles. Cinematography: Urszula Pontikos. Production company: Film London Microwave BBC Films Skillset. Release date(s): January 16, 2014 (Sundance Film Festival). Country: United Kingdom. Language: English. Budget: £120,000. Duration: 91 minutes.

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