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Image of Naomi Christie and Ben Whishaw walk along the the Regent's Canal in Lilting

Regent's Canal in Lilting

Date posted: 01.08.2014

"I love seeing London on screen, I think it's wonderful" ā€“ Ben Whishaw, Time Out London

Hong Khaou's debut feature Lilting hits cinema screens across the UK from Friday 8 August. Made with the support of Film London's acclaimed Microwave scheme, the film is described by Khaou as "a modern day, London drama with a universal theme ā€“ love and grief". With an aesthetic that is grounded in the city, the Regent's Canal provided one of its perfect capital locations.

Starring Ben Whishaw (Skyfall) and Cheng Pei-pei (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), Lilting follows the pair as they try to come to terms with grief ā€“ and each other.

A touching exploration of grief across cultures and generations

Cheng Pei-Pei and Ben Whishaw star in Lilting

Pei-Pei plays Junn, a grief stricken mother trying to cope with her son Kai's (Andrew Leung) untimely death. When his lover Richard (Whishaw) enters her world, she finds it difficult to accept his presence and with her speaking only Cambodian Chinese and him English they struggle to communicate. But over time they both come to understand how and why their worlds are connected through Kai.

It's a London thing

Set in East London, Lilting uses both interior and exterior shots to full effect with the localised nature of the setting emphasising the universality of the story. Khaou's vision of love and grief is touchingly portrayed through the city, reflecting its very London sensibilities both visually and through characterisation. Key to this is the use of Regent's Canal - an iconic but subtle setting.

Veins running through London

Traversing through various locations and landmarks, London's canals run like veins through the capital. Operating almost under the surface, the canal offers an intimate vision of the city and is often a place of calm, alongside the city's hustle and bustle. 

One of very few external shots used in the film, the scene on Regent's Canal provides a touching moment of bonding between Richard and Vann, the translator he has roped in to help improve communication with Junn.

"It is an excellent location" reflected Location Manager Lex Donavan, "as it clearly shows an iconic and identifiable side of London whilst being peaceful and serene - it was perfect for the content of the scene",

And it didn't just work aesthetically, with Donavan declaring the half day shoot went "extremely smoothly".

Other locations that were shot in London for this production include many interiors, featuring a flat on New Cross Road, a flat in Tower Hamlets and Chase and Sorensen furniture shop in Hackney.

Inspired? Get in touch with the Canal & River Trust

From EastEnders to James Bond, the canals provide a back drop for all types of productions. Channel 4 chose Old Ford Lock for its ident marking the Paralympic Games; Little Venice became a rainy Amsterdam in The Counsellor; Hackney hosted Fast & Furious 6; and ITV and BBC dramas have used the waterways as a scene setting. TV chefs The Hairy Bikers have also filmed here.

If you want to film on London's canals you first need to get permission from The Canal & River Trust. The Trust covers the Grand Union Canal southwards from Uxbridge including:

  • The Paddington arm
  • Regent's Canal
  • Hertford Union Canal
  • Limehouse Cut (Tower Hamlets)
  • The rivers Lee & Stort

It also maintains British inland navigable water (excluding the Thames), with over 2,000 miles of fantastic outdoor locations to choose from such as:

  • Towpaths
  • Locks
  • World heritage sites
  • Nature reserves

To film on and around the canals, contact:

Cassie Clarke
Canal & River Trust
T: 07788 366 530
E: Filming.photography@canalrivertrust.org.uk