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Stars: Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei-pei, Andrew Leung, Morven Christie, Naomi Christie, Peter Bowles

Director: Hong Khao

There is much to enjoy in this sweet, if dramatically emaciated, tale – attractive key performances, beautiful, well-composed cinematography (Ula Pontikos) and a well-chosen cast who bring more to the story than at first might seem possible.

That said, these days going to the movies is a really expensive treat, even if you manage to avoid being ripped off by the high in-cinema prices of candy, popcorn and drinks.

So let me give the good news right away.

Lilting has been financed (no surprise there) by, among others, the Lottery (via the British Film Institute) and the BBC so, having already paid for it twice without having actually seen what you’ve paid for, you might be well advised to wait until the film turns up late at night on BBC4.

The story, while decorated ad lib by writer-director Hong Khao, is essentially straightforward, although given additional ‘depth’ by Hong flashing back and forth in time without always making all the time-altering sequences helpful to the narrative which has Cambodian-Chinese Chang Pei-pei, who lives in an old people’s home where she is romanced by fellow inmate Peter Bowles, trying to come to terms with the untimely death of her son Andrew Leung.

Which leaves Leung’s gay lover Ben Whishaw to engage interpreter Naomi Christie to try and help Chang recover from the trauma…

Gay actor Whishaw (‘Q’ in the latest Bond movies) gives a cleverly restrained performance that convinces almost all the time, Chang is superb and Bowles surprisingly good as a resolutely randy pensioner, and the images on screen are stunning. The drama possesses genuine heart and emotion but, somehow, Hong never quite succeeds in making the most of these elements.

You probably don't really need me to tell you that Lilting was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

Alan Frank

UK 2014. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour.
86 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Aug 2014