Saturday, April 18, 2020

Tigertail (2020)

I’ve been seeing “slow burn” as a tag for movies on Netflix.  I’m not sure if this is a new tag or if I just haven’t noticed.  However, I think Tigertail fits the bill.  It’s not rushed.  It’s not drawn out, either. 

The movie tells the tale of Pin-Jui, who grew up in Taiwan.  His childhood wasn’t perfect, but he had a mother that cared for him.  His dream is to go to America, so that he can earn more money and bring his mother over.

While living with his grandmother for a while, he meets Yuan.  Years later, they meet again and become romantically involved.  While working at the same factory as his mother, Pin-Jui is presented with a choice.  He can marry his boss’s daughter, Zhenzhen, and move to America or he can stay with Yuan and take his chances.

Pin-Jui sees Zhenzhen as the safe choice.  Yuan is from a more affluent family, who probably wouldn’t accept him.  If he marries Zhenzhen, her father will finance their move.  Pin-Jui accepts the offer.

The story is told both in the present and through flashbacks, using both 16mm and digital formats.  We see how life in America progresses for Pin-Jui and Zhenzhen.  We even see their daughter, Angela, at a piano recital.

Pin-Jui seemed to be happy and more energetic before moving.  As an adult, he’s distant towards his wife and harsh with Angela for forgetting part of the piece she was playing.  He chastises her for crying, pointing out that it accomplishes nothing.

The movie isn’t so much about the move as it is about choices.  Pin-Jui gave up a lot to move to America.  He sacrificed the woman he loved to move there.  We see Pin-Jui opening the store where he works, mopping and closing.  Repeat enough and we know it’s been a long, hard time for him.  Granted, it was something he wanted, but he had also hoped to move his mother over.  When the mother refuses, it takes its toll.

We’ve all had a few decisions we’d like to do over.  It might not be a lost love, but playing it safe isn’t always the most gratifying path.  As I said, he might have made it to America anyway.  Also, who’s to say Yuan’s parents wouldn’t have accepted him?  He might very well have spent the next thirty years at the factory if he had turned down the boss’s offer, but he would have done so on his own terms.

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