A Powerful & Moving Drama
“Be strong, never let anyone see you cry.” One of the first lines in Tigertail is also the most impactful as it sets into motion a series of events that ultimately define our characters and the plot that plays out. Tigertail ultimately weaves this life lesson through its 90 minutes, refusing to waste a single minute of its run-time to produce one of the year’s best films.
The story at the heart of this revolves around a man named Pin-Jui, who reflects on his life choices and what led him to migrate across to America to start a new life. Along the way are two women who ultimately shape the narrative, Pin-Jui’s teen sweetheart Yuan and his wife Zhen-Zhen. From here the film cuts its narrative into two distinct paths, one showing the past and the other combining that with the present as Pin-Jui tries to navigate through his feelings and built-up walls to form a relationship with his estranged daughter Angela.
There’s a lot of themes and ideas contributed to the 90 minutes that are easy to miss the first time around. The American Dream and finding hope in the land of the free is examined, along with ideas of migration, belonging and that all important notion of work/life balance. Alongside this is a commentary on culture, class and even preconceived ideologies that combine to create a really powerful vision running through the heart of this.
Visually, the film backs this up with a great use of colour too. When Pin-Jui makes it to America, the colour palette is dominated by shades of yellow in almost every scene – symbolizing hope and happiness. The latter is more of a juxtaposed irony, playing off the harsh realities Pin-Jui and his wife Zhen-Zhen face when they make it to their less-than-ideal motel room.
Throughout all of this is the character of Pin-Jui, who finds himself a broken man, drowning in regret and haunted by the choices he’s made in the past. Throughout the film are numerous instances of him sitting alone, reflecting on these moments, while the emotionless expressions and awkward silences with his daughter only reinforce those ideas instilled in him as a child – “Be Strong, never let anyone see you cry.”
The musical score works harmoniously alongside the narrative too, with lots of interesting motifs and a classical score that perfectly captures the emotions of the time. While a lot of Tigertail plays out as a self-reflective, poignant affair, there are moments and glimmers of happiness and this is reflected through the orchestral numbers. It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship between visual and audio and Tigertail nails this balance perfectly.
Tigertail is ultimately a brilliant film, one that combines flawed but well written characters with a gorgeous visual design and fitting music. The parallel narratives work harmoniously together and every single line of dialogue is deliberately written to play on what we’ve learnt up until that point. While some may bemoan the constant jumps back and forth, Tigertail makes these flashes through time significant and crescendos this with a perfectly poignant ending that brings the focus back to that original quote, making for a really thought provoking and powerful drama.