Long Lost Loves and an Epic Journey Make the Film ‘Tigertail’ Worth Watching

'Tigertail' unearths the past of an older generation who once found the act of traveling the world to be exciting.

Caitlin Yeung

‘Tigertail’ unearths the past of an older generation who once found the act of traveling the world to be exciting.

The film ‘Tigertail,’ directed and written by the “Master of None” creator Alan Yang, is based on the story of Yang’s father as he traveled to and then adapted to living in America. The protagonist, Pin-jui (Tzi Ma), is a free-spirited Taiwanese factory worker who abandons his homeland and the woman whom he truly loves (Joan Chen), so that his mother can live a stress-free and non-working life in America. Driven by his dream of seeking new opportunities and achieving the American Dream, Pin-jui agrees to an arranged marriage with the daughter of his boss, Zhenzhen (Fiona Fu), in exchange for being sent to America. 

We follow Pin-jui’s journey as he is thrown into the struggling, challenging, and poignant hardships during his immigration experience. Pin-jui finds a job at a grocery store, while Zhenzhen stays at home doing chores and meeting friends. Although they live together in a dingy New York City apartment, Pin-jui and Zhenzhen slowly grow further and further apart. Years after settling in America, Pin-jui looks back on the decisions that he has made throughout his life, and he recognizes an aspect of himself in his distraught daughter Angela (Christine Kho). 

The resemblance in their experiences of regret and failure explains Pin-jui and Angela’s relationship. The director carefully transitions between scenes of past and present, and between the father and daughter’s perspective. Yang imposed a gloomy and somber image of Pin-jui and then immediately cut to Angela, demonstrating the patterns between the two characters. Both Pin-jui and Angela were very invested in their work, forgetting to balance their lifestyle. [SPOILER ALERT] This caused Pin-jui’s wife and Angela’s fiancé to leave. To rekindle their relationship with their family, both Pin-jui and Angela take a trip into their past when visiting Taiwan. Instead of hiding his emotions and his past, Pin-jui learns about the importance of sharing his life, experience, and pain with his family. These sentimental scenes left audience members recalling and yearning for the sensory experience from the previous scenes: rushing through rice fields, the deep red glow of bars, and the dreamy river along with the sweet voice of Yuan as she sings Otis Redding. 

The dramatic story between Pin-jui and Angela mirrors Yang and his father’s bond, as well as Yang’s original failure to connect himself with the Taiwanese culture. “I hope the Asian-American community embraces it because it’s very much a love letter, not just to my own family, but to every family that’s gone through this experience,” said Alan Yang in a New York Times interview. “’Tigertail’ is one of the many Asian-centric films such as ‘Parasite,’ ‘Farewell,’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ that has heavily impacted the entertainment industry. This film was released right when the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak became clear, and many cases of xenophobia against Asian American communities were reported. I think that the film acts as a reminder for all people to take a glimpse into their family’s culture and values,” said Sampson Yang ’20. 

“However, ‘Tigertail’ isn’t solely about creating Asian-representation content; it also produces an enthralling plot that is enjoyable and relatable for all viewers and their families,” said Kaitlyn Chan ’21. ‘Tigertail’ touches upon the themes of intergenerational relationships, immigration, and arranged marriage. Unlike other films available for viewing on Netflix, Tigertail delves into the unspoken outcomes of single-mindedly chasing after the American Dream. Pulling every audience member’s emotional string, Yang successfully blends his father’s journey to America and his grappling relationship with his parents. It reveals how the director’s Taiwanese and American heritage strongly imbues ‘Tigertail’ with poignancy. 

To watch ‘Tigertale’ on Netflix (subscription required), click HERE.

Caitlin Yeung
Britney Ng ‘20 discusses her experience of watching the film ‘Tigertail.’ “The film truly depicts the difficulties of immigrant families, and it dives deeply into a boundary that both separates and unites multiple generations of a family,” said Ng.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think that the film acts as a reminder for all people to take a glimpse into their family’s culture and values,” said Sampson Yang ’20. 

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