BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival Review: Lilting

LiltingLast night the newly named LGBT film festival BFI Flare had its Opening Night Gala, with the European premiere of the Hong Khaou film Lilting. Set in contemporary London, Cheng Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is composed and masterful as Junn, an old Chinese lady whose son Kai's death has left her alone in a retirement home, speaking no English, and with no remaining family. British actor Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas) plays the son's partner Richard, who in his own grief decides to reach out to Junn through a translator - though she doesn't know Kai was gay, or that he and Richard were in a relationship. Yes, tissues at the ready, this is a film built on a tragic event, which brings together those left in its wake. But as Richard and Junn connect - with all the intensity and occasional humour that speaking through a translator can bring - they begin to merge their respective narratives of Kai, and come to a better understanding of what he meant to the other, by the film's close. This is a story which could also thrive as a play, with just two simple but very important locations (a flat shared by the Kai and Richard, and Junn's retirement home). As a screenwriter and director, Khaou patches different timelines together, weaving seamlessly and often replaying scenes to depict what has gone before, and what makes it relevant again following plot and character revelations. Lilting is bittersweet tale of love and loss, differences and understandings; all beautifully captured to create a truly charming piece. Produced through Film London's Microwave scheme, this British film may have been made on a budget, but nothing is lacking, and it was a perfect opening to the 10 days of films commencing at London's BFI, to celebrate the diversity within queer film making. 4/5 Lilting will receive a UK general release in summer 2014. For the full festival programming visit bfi.org.uk/flare