Kai (Andrew Leung), a young man from London with Chinese-Cambodian origins, dies suddenly, leaving his boyfriend ((Ben Whishaw) and mother, Junn (Pei-Pei Cheng) in a state of deep and intimate loss. Richard, feeling a great sense of responsibility for Kai’s mother, now left alone, decides to meet her. But the stubborn woman is openly hostile towards him; to make things even more difficult, Junn speaks very little English. Richard does not give up, and hires a translator in order to be able to communicate with the woman. Thus begins a painful effort to overcome misunderstandings and the distance between them, reassembling the memory of the person they have lost.
Lilting is an intimate and touching film that tells of how difficult – but necessary – it is to put human social and cultural differences aside to find that which unites us on a deeper level.
“Language is a central theme in the story. I wanted to use it as a metaphor for communication, and above all the other side of the same coin. I have always wanted to use “the translator” as a narrative device, because I spent most of my childhood translating television programmes for my mother” (Hong Khaou).
Hong Khaou has made two short films: Summer (2006), presented at the Berlin Festival and Spring (2011), presented at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2013, Screen International named him one of the “stars of tomorrow”. Lilting, his first long film, won the best photography award – World Cinema Dramatic at Sundance 2014.