TL;DR – A methodical and sad film at times while still holding onto that one bit of hope
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Of the many types of films I watch, it has been quite a while since I sat down and watched a small contemplative film that slowly unfolds over its run time. Well, that changed today with our film Tigertail, a film that feels autobiographical even though I have no idea if it is or not because its focus of characters is that good.
So to set the scene, we open in on a young child running through the rice fields of central Taiwan, he mostly alone but he finds a moment of happiness when he runs into a local girl. However, as we jump to the present we discover that the years have not been entirely kind to Grover (Tzi Ma) as he is driving home from the airport by his daughter Angela (Christine Ko) after attending his mother’s funeral back in Taiwan. There is an instant distance between the two, with each side wanting to help but not knowing how to proceed.
Having an inherently sad film is difficult to pull off without the audience constantly feeling morose. As you watch the lives of Grover and Angela unravel in tandem it a hard film to watch at times. Especially when a lot of the internal conflict is self-inflicted with both sides struggling to find common ground with each other. Part of what makes it so sad is that they are both so similar but they can’t see those similarities only the differences.
As the story unwinds itself, I have to give full respect to all the actors for giving these subtle yet commanding performances. A lot of the film is driven by the character of Grover of which we see him through different stages of his life, mostly as a young and old man. When you have a character being played by more than one character, it can be hard to make those two performances feel like the same character or a progression of a character. Here we see the slow transformation of the young and excited Grover in the performance of Hing Chi-Lee to the old and resigned performance of Tzi Ma. It felt like I was watching a real person’s life unfurl in front of me and that is a credit to both the writers and the performers.
From the production side of things, we have a film that is gorgeously shot in places. There are times when it flows over rice fields with a longing to a time long gone by. At other times it lingers of a scene just long enough to make you feel uncomfortable like you are looking at something private. Another part of the film that I liked was the musical score. It was not used as a backing or sorts, but more as an exclamation point with a solo violin calling out into the night. I also liked how the progression of the story unfolded throughout and reached a very poignant resolution.
In the end, do we recommend Tigertail? Yes, yes we do. Now, this is not going to be a film for everyone because the slow reveal could be a bit too slow for some. However, for me, I found the very personal exploration of life to be compelling. If you liked Tigertail, I can also recommend The Farewell to you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Tigertail
Directed by – Alan Yang
Screenplay by – Alan Yang
Music by – Michael Brook
Cinematography by – Nigel Bluck
Edited by – Daniel Haworth
Production/Distribution Companies – MACRO & Netflix
Starring – Tzi Ma, Christine Ko, Fiona Fu, Hing Chi-Lee, Kunjue Li, Joan Chen, Yo-Hsing Fang, Cindera Che, Hayden Szeto, Yang Kuei-mei & James Saito
Rating – Australia: PG;