Tuesday, 19 August 2014

REVIEW - LILTING (HONG KHAOU)


Peace and contentedness achieved through understanding in Hong Khaou's Lilting, a delicate chamber piece whose fundamental elements are so few that Hong risks exposing those which falter as prominently as those which succeed. It's a risk he seems unaware of, admirably sticking to his guns whether they're all shooting straight or not. He'd be better off selecting better weaponry to begin with. Lilting suffers from a tendency to skew twee and affected, as confirmed in a credits sequence that already starts layering on the whimsy, and that's a tendency it never even attempts to shake off. In intermittent stylistic flourishes, Hong succumbs wholly to it, and the effect is enervating at worst, unremarkable at best. In fact, just about all of his scenario's central tenets - its verbosity, its flashbacks, its wistfulness, its narrative contrivances - come across poorly. Better, though, is Hong's innate sense of dramatic development, and the breadth of knowledge he possesses on human emotion. In over-scripting it, he crystallises notions that were better left untouched, not hemmed in by the specific destinations he sends them toward. But that breadth exists nonetheless in Lilting's occasional moments of quietude, and in the eyes of its leads, Cheng Pei Pei and Ben Whishaw, both supremely touching as the respective mother and boyfriend of a late young man. To him, they represented separate lives he led, and his difficulty in combining them is a task wrought upon them now that he has died. Their differences are mined for quaint comedy (more so Cheng's relationship with a fellow retirement home inhabitant, an increasingly tiresome strand) and fraught drama, though Hong eventually allows their discussions to settle, and concludes with an excellent encounter, in which both we and they come to realise that it's not in forcing another to understand that we find peace, but in allowing ourselves to understand.