Tigertail Review

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.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Review

Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Céline Sciamma is a beautiful film from beginning to end. Sciamma makes you feel everything at once through her delicate framing. From the opening scene, the audience is brought into the psyche of Marianne and her memories of Heloise. 

Sciamma introduces the audience to Marianne, an artist and teacher, who is in the middle of instructing her students how to sketch a portrait. I absolutely loved every close up shot in this film because Sciamma captured the beauty in the eyes of the artist. The eyes were constantly searching for every detail in the subject’s face and it was powerful. Marianne then sees an old portrait of hers, out in the open and questions how it got there. Sciamma then tells us the simple, romantic tale of the lady in the portrait. 

As the story travels back into the memory of Marianne, the tones in the frame become softer, warmer and almost dreamlike. The entire film felt like we were entering this alternate timeline of another place entirely, with these characters, as if it were a fragment that was repressed. The screenplay was lovely as well, Heloise’s mother, The Countess advised Marianne to sketch a portrait without Heloise knowing. By doing so, Marianne went on walks with her and attempted to draw from memory. 

The tension begins to build as Sciamma captures stolen looks, intense eye contact, short breaths and subtle touches as their relationship flourishes. The pacing of their love affair was perfect and their intimacy was shown in the best possible way.

“Do all lovers feel like they are inventing something?” that entire scene set me ablaze. If you’ve been in love or even infatuated with anyone, you know that feeling, the burning the wells up inside you, whenever they’re near you. The overwhelming sensation of having them near you, looking at you or even speaking to you lights your entire body and that’s why the flame in the portrait, symbolically means all of this at once. 

Along with this burning flame, comes heartbreak and pain because this type of raw, passionate, all consuming love, which is also forbidden, comes with a cost. Their love, so pure, beautiful, natural and free of restrictions, soon has reality come knocking at their doorstep. 

The line that made me sob uncontrollably was “Don’t regret, remember.” How can such a beautiful experience be forgotten? That type of love is beautiful and the build up to the relationship is something to always cherish. The way Marianne and Heloise communicated their initial thoughts of each other and at what moments they fell for each other, was intimate and necessary. 

The parallel to Eurydice and Orpheus had genius placement in the third act of the film. The concept of looking at someone for the last time can be hard to understand and Sciamma makes sure to vividly have the image of Heloise etched in Marianne’s mind, for the rest of her life.

Parasite Review

Parasite is THE movie of the year.

Bong Joon Ho delivers a masterpiece about classicism, morality, opportunities and wit. It is masked as a family con job that was exciting to watch from the start. The first half shows intelligence, humour and a masterclass of acting. As we go on this journey of manipulating the rich and seizing opportunities, the intricate web that was formed by the family begins to tangle and leads to the ultimate destruction.

The one line that stood out to me and brought me to tears was, Kang Ho Song’s delivery of “You know what plan never fails? No plan.” he then proceeds to say that life cannot be planned. This was the moment that struck me the most because after everything that the family had gone through together, life happens and it cannot be controlled, it can change in a second.

There were many small, joyous moments shared between the 4 family members and reflecting back on those moments, they were unified and had faith in each other in playing out this con job on the rich. Life is a whirlwind and this film truly opens your eyes to the world of the unplanned. It shows that people who are poverty stricken, did not choose this life, it’s the system that is against them. Many people can be intelligent without attending post secondary and this film shows that having the plan to go, doesn’t mean you can go because there are plenty of other factors… like money.

Bong Joon Ho’s direction was fantastic and the screenplay continued to get more intriguing as the film went on. It’s a brilliant film that has so many layers, it’s the best of the year.