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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Movie Review - Lilting

Lilting (2014)
Starring Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei Pei, Andrew Leung, Naomi Christie, and Peter Bowles
Directed by Hong Khaou
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Whenever I see an actor or actress in a live setting, I feel like I have this weird sense of parental fascination with them.  Scarlett Johannson in A View from the Bridge (and not so much from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof).  Kristin Chenoweth in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  Gone Girl's Carrie Coon in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  I end up rooting for these people simply because I paid substantial money to see them on a stage.  Way back in 2010, I was somewhat dragged to an Off-Broadway play called The Pride (that was actually pretty good) that starred Hugh Dancy, Birdman's Andrea Riseborough, and Ben Whishaw -- three actors who all have proven themselves on the cinema landscape in subsequent years.  Because of this weird urge to watch things with these people with whom I've had some "live connection," the little indie flick Lilting was added to my Netflix queue upon its arrival to streaming.  Perhaps it was just the early morning hours in which I watched director and screenwriter Hong Khaou's first feature film, but my focus could not be kept once the film hit its halfway point and it kept rehashing the same emotional beats over and over and over again.

Whishaw is Richard, a young man struggling with the fact that his boyfriend of five years Kai (Andrew Leung) has passed away.  Kai was very close with his mother Junn (Cheng Pei Pei), a Chinese immigrant to Britain who struggled to provide a good life for her son.  However, Kai kept his homosexuality a secret from Junn which sets up an awkward situation for Richard who wants to make sure that Junn is cared for in her later years as she lives at a retirement home.  As Richard and Junn get to know each other -- while still keeping some big secrets from one another -- their relationship travels a rocky road.

The problem with Lilting is that until the film's final ten minutes, the film keeps repeating the same emotional moments.  How many times can we see Richard uncomfortably meet with Junn, pondering whether to tell her about his true relationship with Kai?  How many times can we see Junn not give Richard the time of day?  How many times can we see in flashbacks Richard trying to convince Kai to come out to his mother?  Nearly all of the film's scenes play these same notes again and again.   While both Whishaw and Cheng are solid, their characters go through minimal arcs and even at the film's conclusion, I never felt the emotional connection I probably should have.  By the time the film's final half hour began, I had checked out because I didn't care about anyone.  It's a shame because I think there was some semblance of an interesting story here, but it just doesn't come together in a satisfying way.

The RyMickey Rating:  C


  1. Dragged? Dragged?!!? I don't remember that.
    But--my first thought (before reading about you being dragged) was, "There's a Ben Wishaw movie available on Netflix streaming and I haven't seen it?! WHAT"--so maybe dragged is smidge justified.
    I saw Perfume was on streaming too as I was scrolling through some stuff. So I supposed I'll be watching that again soon.

  2. "Somewhat dragged..." Hee Hee...

    (Those words were only typed to see what reaction I was going to get!)

    But, to be quite honest, I wish you were around to drag me to more stuff like that play!

  3. I knew it but couldn't resist the bait (which I'm sure you knew).
    I haven't seen anything since moving here, unfortunately. I haven't found anything yet that isn't either community-theatre-type-based or the big broadway touring stuff which is too expensive. I'm sure there are other options, but I haven't found them yet. ah well.

  4. I watched this today. I'm glad you reviewed it--I doubt I would have come across it on my own.

  5. You are welcome. I take it you maybe liked it better than me based off of you being happy I reviewed it?

  6. I liked it better up until the last 10 mins or so--then it seemed rushed, given how slow and meandering the rest had been. I mean, he was struggling so much to not tell her, and then suddenly it just jumps to a scene and he's doing it. Weird denouement. Mostly I liked looking at the set design and watching the shots of talking without talking--or the talking laid over shots of not talking--you know what I'm talking about?
    Either way, have a significant acting-crush on Ben Whishaw, so I imagine I would like anything he is in at least a little better than you. I would listen to/watch him recite medication warning commercials.