It’s all in a look… an expression on one’s face that gives away the emotions behind the words or silence. “What’s wrong?” Kai’s mother asks.
Synopsis from Amazon: “Set in contemporary London, LILTING tells the story of a Cambodian-Chinese mother mourning the untimely death of her son. Her world is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger. Though they don’t share a common language, a translator helps piece together the memories of a man they both loved.”
On the surface it seems like this film might be about miscommunication. Richard and Junn aren’t able to communicate directly so they do so through Vann. But it’s almost more about what isn’t said or even understood through words.
I think about all the time that Junn and Alan spent together and how happy they were before they could talk to each other. Each believed what they wanted about the other even though they were so very different. Once they could communicate they couldn’t stand each other.
I try to place myself in Junn’s place when she is talking with Richard about Kai. How could she not know the depth of their feelings? The look on Richard’s face is more telling than the words Kai would have spoken. And the repeated scene where Kai wants to tell her but can’t… there is no need for words there. The pain in his face is enough.
Words get in the way so often. I think about something my Dad says about how people misspeak without even thinking about or knowing it. Meaning is so nuanced that one person’s perception of a conversation can be completely different to another. We often don’t even remember the words that have been spoken to us, but we long remember how the words and situation made us feel.
For Junn, I think that’s an important point. She wants to remember Kai and how she felt when she was around him. And Richard is trying to deal with how he feels, and trying to hold memories close while figuring out how to deal with the loss.
This film is a moving piece that explores a part of humanity that we can all relate to. How do we each deal with loss, loneliness, moving on, and how we express those things to another human being. The acting is spot on and production values all contribute to a coherent narrative.
A takeaway for me from this film is to remember to look further than the words in a conversation. Look at the emotions underneath, and know that the context they provide may be worth more than what they person is telling.