WATCH: Ben Whishaw’s ‘Lilting’ Hits Sundance; We Talk to the Director

Ben Whishaw plays a gay man who befriends the Chinese mother (Pei-pei Cheng) of his recently deceased partner. (Photo: BBC Films)

Ben Whishaw plays a gay man who befriends the Chinese mother (Pei-pei Cheng) of his recently deceased partner. (Photo: BBC Films)

Among the opening day attractions at Sundance this year was a British film called Lilting in which Ben Whishaw plays a gay man trying to befriend the Chinese mother of his recently deceased partner. For the film’s Cambodian-born British director Hong Khaou, it was an exciting night. “I feel giddy,” he said, “I feel like a kid. Sundance is such a great festival.”

Whishaw wasn’t at Sundance—but Khaou had nothing but praise for the actor. He said, “His character is constantly carrying this grief and it’s such a difficult thing to carry throughout the entire film. It was really important to get the right actor who has that. He’s a phenomenal actor.”

The film deals with individuals trying to communicate with one another. The Chinese mother, played by actress Pei-Pei Cheng, doesn’t speak English so Whishaw’s character engages a translator in an effort to develop the relationship.

For Khaou the film is partially inspired by his relationship with his own mother. “We have lived in Britain for over 30 years—to this day she still doesn’t speak English—I took that idea and ran with it,” he says.

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