Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Tigertail

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Copyright: Netflix

Sloppy Netflix dramas are fast and loose, rattling the cage of just about anyone praying for a decent project to make its way onto the platform. Tigertail, the latest feature film from Alan Yang, is close enough. Not quite the hallmark of brilliance the streaming service has been in dire need of, but a tremendous step in the right direction. Detailing one father struggle with the loss of his only love, and the ambitious move he makes from Taiwan to the United States, this debut from Yang gives a decent enough peek behind the curtain at how a life dedicated to work is harmful to the relationships and life we hope to achieve through such aching monotony.  

Tzi Ma’s starring role is solid. Nothing specific within there that can be pointed out as the true highlight of his role, but there is an overall consistency to his work, much like his other work elsewhere. A stalwart member of the screen, he brings good ballast to a story that may need grounding or fortifying. He accepts his role well, a rather overarching presentation of honour and love for his family, but his pride coming across as a strict cold-heartedness. Rather underwhelming at times, but considering it forms the centre of the narrative, we just have to make do with what we’re given. 

That shouldn’t be something we have to do, though. We fire through objectively solid filmmaking, none of which comes together in any form of unique style or incredible storytelling. There’ll not be an overarching style that we as an audience can rely on, extended flashback sequences falling to rather grim lows with this piece. Lee Hong Chi does a decent enough job representing our leading man in these past tense moments, but decent isn’t what any filmmaker should strive for. We never quite hit the highs expected of such a strongly collated cast. Very messy at times, and Tigertail is very lucky to avoid the emotional manipulation that comes with such shoddy, fumbled storylines.  

Family is such an important piece of life, Tigertail gets that much right. At its core, there is some heart to his film, making it a rather horrid film to talk down. But its loss of love and lenience toward how we treat immediate lineage is a justified one. A topic that does feel genuine in its concern, but flimsy and disengaged with its approach to not just its characters, but you the viewer. It knows the road it travels well; we’ve been down it long before Tigertail introduced us to the warring family falling to pieces, but honest intentions don’t prevent boredom. Frankly, Yang’s film struggles to find an unrepeated angle, toiling away with great difficulty as it figures out what it’d like to do. We never reach a clear conclusion, instead we’re offered, at best, a mixed series of bland events.