By: Amanda Guarragi
Alan Yang’s directorial debut Tigertail is a story about generational values and decision making. He tells the story about a Taiwanese factory worker, Grover (Hong Chi Li/Tzi Ma), who leaves his homeland to seek opportunity in America. We watch his story unfold, as he reflects on his life and how ended up in his current position. Yang wrote a very moving and introspective script, which captured each generation perfectly and how certain decision cause a ripple effect on the future generations.
The story flowed nicely from scene to scene and the editing was utilized in a way, that made the flashbacks seem more present in his mind rather than using a different colour grading to show the shift in time. As the story unfolds and we get to know more about Grover, we begin to understand how his decisions changed him as a person and how that affected his relationship with his daughter Angela (Christine Ko). Grover came from a small town in Taiwan and wanted to help his mother get out of the factory. As a child, the one thing you want to be able to do, is help your parents because they also struggled to give you as much as they could.
Tigertail delivers on all fronts and examines classicism and social status throughout generations all while telling a heartbreaking love story. Yang showed Grover (Hong Chi) develop a relationship with his childhood friend Yuan (Yo – Hsing Fang/Joan Chen) and openly discussed their financial differences. Yuan and Grover were young, reckless and in love. Their connection and chemistry was natural and you could feel that they were meant to be with each other. Yang then showed Grover’s ambition and love for his mother, by giving him an opportunity to move to America with another woman, Zhenzhen (Kunjue Li/Fiona Fu).
This major life decision stayed with Grover for the rest of his life and altered him as a man. Tzi Ma gave an incredible introspective performance and Grover’s loneliness was felt throughout the film. He became an entirely different person because he had to start from scratch, in a new country and work double to make a living for his wife and family. As time went on, Grover became more stubborn, stern and didn’t have the same carefree nature as before. Yes, people get older and their priorities change but their spirit should be able to remain the same, IF they make the right decisions in their lives.
Grover cared about financial stability and passed that down to his daughter Angela, while she was contemplating marrying her boyfriend Eric. Angela worker hard her entire life and throws herself into her work, much like her father. I valued Angela and Grover’s, father/daughter relationship because of how similar they were, without them realizing it. Those moments shared between them and finally coming to terms with how their lives went and the parallels was so intriguing in this film. The direction from Yang really brought their individuality together and had them share such intimate moments after all these years.
As I watched Tigertail I questioned if love was truly enough, if love CAN conquer everything and anything? How do we know we’ve made the right decision when choosing a partner? Have I chosen this person because I do love them or is it out of convenience? Do I love them or the image of them? Am I in love with THEM or the idea of a relationship? These are the questions that I have always thought about and Tigertail made me understand life and relationships a bit more.
The one thing Yang so expertly shows is the evolution of love through generations, while still keeping the same core value intact. Yes love can conquer anything, if you’re with the right person and there’s a balance, that’s a chance everyone has to take. However, financial stability and personality traits, that don’t seem like an issue early on, can definitely affect the relationship in the future. Love is a gamble and I think this generation doesn’t think of the future and how one decision can affect their entire life. My grandparents, much like Grover, never really had a choice in who they loved, they just knew they had to make a living and evolve trying to make a better life for themselves.
Tigertail is possibly one of Netflix’s best original films because of how much it covers in such a short period of time. Alan Yang takes you on a very realistic journey that will leave you heartbroken but hopeful at the end of the film. It is a multi-generational drama that will pull at your heartstrings and will leave you with a new appreciation, for prior generations, who built the foundation for all of us to walk on. Without their sacrifices, none of us would be where we are today and Yang covers it beautifully.