Review: Alan Yang’s Tigertail is a Beautiful Alternative Tale on the Pursuit of the American Dream

As a kid, when I was told there would be lot of challenges to face in future, little never did I think of a larger number of it being virtual and not physical. There are multiple challenges taking place on all corners of the world wide web that you should not be accused of using Glo (a very slow Nigerian network) if you lack awareness on any of them. I have never seen so many take place simultaneously. However, it could be as a result of trying to mask the real physical challenges we should be facing with virtual ones to make us feel better, which I hope is working. It would be a big fail if we are just patching up life problems we would still have to face in future (hmmnn shrinks psychiatrists have bucks to earn this generation and the next). Whether it is good or bad, that is not what we are here for. Don’t rush, slow touch.

young Pin-Jui and wife.

Tigertail, written and directed by Alan Yang, follows the life of an underprivileged young Taiwanese man, Pin-Jui, who moves to USA as a benefit of an arranged marriage. This sees him leave the true love of his life behind as he chases a better life to secure an improved future for himself and his mother. The story takes place in his present American life where he is filled with regrets and memories hunting him from his past. This interferes with the new life which he has built for himself. Robbing him from having a good relationship with his adult daughter as they barely communicate anytime they are together despite his numerous actions showing that he is actually trying to provide love and affection. With a broken marriage due to the long loveless union that produced two children and recent death of his mother, who he could not persuade to move to America, he is barely half the man who he used to be.

Tigertail

As his daughter also goes through a tough period of her own, from job to relationship problems, we are served with flashbacks from the man’s life that shows us his route to his present situation where he has actually accomplished his American dream, but at what cost? The stories from the past are predominantly in Mandarin and Taiwanese and there is something beautiful in watching his life back in Taiwan that feels genuine compared to what he is today. Also, from a technical view, the scenes in Taiwan feel better directed and acted than the present day storyline. The past had more life in it, which could describe the lifeless situation that he finds himself in today.

the journey abroad

It could be argued that he left the true love of his life back home in Taiwan in order to get a better life due to his love for his mother, or it could be plain self-centredness. In the long run of things, after having two children who are all grown up, he loses his wife who has grown tired of his passiveness and lack of affection, although he defends that by saying his provision for the family should compensate that. But she is over this arranged marriage and is ready to go out there, leaving the shackles of this ‘marriage’ behind. His son is often on tour with a band and the frozen relationship with his daughter does not seem to get better. In the final years of his gritty-egoisitic life, he is left mostly alone to face his past deeds.

The movie is a drama with mild comedy which tells the story in such a compact way that I like. It boasts a running time of just one and a half hour. It focuses more on his frosted relationship with his daughter, leaving the son out as a nonexistent cog. Despite the short running time, it tells a lot about the emotional state of this man and how his pursuit of an improved life hindered his pursuit of happiness. He had all the happiness of the world in his early days in Taiwan, but in search of something more in order to get out of this poor roots, he decided being with someone he has nothing in common with, other than their marriage would be a big sacrifice enough for the better life which he seeks. Adult Pin-Jui, acted by Tzi Ma, does a great job in translating these emotions of loss and grief on screen. Grief of the death of the life that could have been.

He later reconnects with his old flame in the present day, thanks to Facebook. He comically hits her up in her inbox first, before sending a friend request (just a personal thing I found funny while watching). With this reconnection and other steps of opening up about his veiled past to his daughter who is also struggling, he is able to reconcile with his past and reignite his joy for life. This also improves the father-daughter relationship as they finally find something to talk about. He reluctantly opens up to his daughter about his past, which would be the first time he would do so since he left Taiwan and this serves as a diminishing end to the carousel of lies which he had built his life upon. Hopefully, as the daughter understands her father better after their trip back to Taiwan and first time stories about his past, she is also able to find herself as a second generation in America.

The film is primarily in Mandarin and Taiwanese which means you have to do lot of subtitle reading. English as a secondary language in the movie is spoken during the father-daughter frosty conversations where they do not say much. I would have loved to see him speak a little bit of Mandarin or Taiwanese with his daughter to acknowledge their roots, but him trying to get away from his past must have hindered getting deeper into his roots with his kids. Nevertheless, it would have been best if the whole movie was in Mandarin and Taiwanese, as it sounded like recorded dubbing anytime the actors spoke English with this high pitch.

Tigertail serves as a directorial movie debut for Alan Yang, who collaborates frequently with comedian, Aziz Ansari. They are the co-creators of Master of None, a Netflix romantic comedy series. He directed a number of episodes on Master of None, which you should see by the way. I have a new post coming soon telling us why Mater of None is the perfect TV series for isolation/quarantine/social distancing. It is never a Yang flick without the mention or sight of good food, which takes a beautiful chunk of Tigertail.

As an immigrant story which I relate to deeply, we see the price people pay in order to enjoy things some are naturally born into. Tigertail serves as a semi-biography of Alan Yang’s father, as he mentioned that some part of the story is similar to what his father went through alongside many other Asian immigrants in the USA.

adult Pin and daughter

You should see Tigertail on Netflix (and Master of None), if you like love, foreign-language music, enticing cuisine and new scenery aided by A+ cinematography).

I am hoping to start something fresh on the blog- a news like update where I can share a few things going on in the world of movies and TV as often as I can. It is going to be like multiple news stories all summarized into short paragraphs under a single post. They will be more like quick bites, in order to stay informed. With that, I do not have to dedicate the final paragraphs in my reviews for news. Talking about news, at the moment, it is all Quibi and movie delays due to the current situation in the world.

Happy birthday to me.

Stay safe for your neighbour.

Bis Bald!

4 comments

  1. Happy birthday ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽ๐ŸŽโ™ฅ๏ธโ™ฅ๏ธ
    Now I think Iโ€™m going to watch Master of none. It was always recommended for me on Netflix but I always skipped it as I was skeptical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You should definitely watch it.
      One of the unspoken gems on Netflix.
      I should post a Master of None review in the coming days. Keep an eye out for that.

      Like

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