TIGERTAIL – Film Review

Pin-Jui (Hong-Chi Lee) is a free-spirited yet impoverished young Taiwanese factory worker, who makes the difficult decision to leave his homeland — and the woman he loves — behind in order to seek better opportunities in America. But years of monotonous work and an arranged marriage devoid of love or compassion leave an older Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma) a shadow of his former self. Unable to sympathize with his daughter Angela (Christine Ko) and at risk of living out his retirement in solitude, Pin-Jui must reconnect with his past in order to finally build the life he once dreamed of having.

Quiet, emotional, and slow-burning are perhaps the best words to describe Alan Yang’s Tigertail. His feature film directorial debut is filled to the brim with passion, regret, and love and explores these themes in a beautiful yet heartbreaking way that is sure to leave you teary-eyed come the final act.

The screenplay that Yang wrote is one of the most simplistic yet realistic scripts in a while. While watching the film, it genuinely felt as if I was peering at the life of a man, Grover (Tzi Ma) and the people around him and how he handles his dream to live and work in America. He may have to leave behind the people he loves the most, but he is willing to take that risk if it means that he may have a better future.

Speaking of Grover, the lead performance here from Tzi Ma is truly terrific. He never once felt like he was acting. Every single frame with his character is extremely poignant and interesting. You never feel tired of seeing how his story unfolds. In fact, by the time the movie ended, it truly felt as if I had just watched somebody’s entire life story presented in front of my eyes.

Tzi Ma (left) as Grover and Christine Ko (right) as Angela in Tigertail (2020).

But, as carefully quiet and slow-burning as the movie is, I must admit, for the first twenty to thirty minutes or so, it was quite unclear as to where the film was going storywise. Not too much happens in that time frame, and while it’s not boring, it was just a little bit confusing as to where things were heading.

Once you see where the story is going and what it was all building towards, it ends up becoming a terrific cinematic experience that is sure to encapsulate the hearts of viewers all around the world.

It’s a beautiful film to look at thanks to the excellent cinematography by Nigel Bluck and the direction of Yang. There is not a single shot that is wasted here. Each frame has something interesting and profound to say. The images that were presented to me will be in my head for a long while. The same can really be said about the film as a whole. It does take a while for things to get going, for sure. But as soon as the second act kicks in, Yang’s picture becomes something incredibly unique and definitely welcomed in these times.

Alan Yang’s Tigertail is a beautifully poignant and staggeringly realistic look at the life of a hopeful man and the loved ones around him.

Overall Grade: A-

MPAA Rating: PG

Cast: Lee Hong-chi, Tzi Ma, Christine Ko, Hayden Szeto, Yo-Hsing Fang, Kunjue Li, Fiona Fu, James Saito, Joan Chen, Cindera Che, Margot Bingham, Yang Kuei-mei

Directed by: Alan Yang

Distributed by: Netflix

Release Date: April 10, 2020

Running Time: 90 minutes

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