An international family drama finds a warm home on Netflix
Try not to get confused when you see the titles “Tiger King” and “Tigertail” on Netflix. The former is a docuseries about the corruption of zoos and sanctuaries, and the later is a Taiwanese/American drama.
Written and directed by Alan Yang (“Parks and Recreation”), in his directorial debut, “Tigertail” focuses on one man’s life struggles, and how he affects others in the process. This would happen to pertain to a middle-age man named Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma from “The Farewell”), who reflects on his youth and contemplates on his current situations. He goes through life as a poor child and later as a sad man; and it’s quite revealing.
As a lad, we see him living in poverty and spending his days grabbing buckets of water from the river; and as a young adult (Hong-Chi Lee), we see him working in the sugar factory with his mother (Yang Kuei-mei from “Eat Drink Man Woman)). His dream is to go to America, but he must marry Zhenzhen (Kunjue Li), a woman he doesn’t love to do so. And to make ends meet, he works at a local New York City deli, while his wife complains about not having anything in common with him.
In the present day, we see Pin-Jui recovering from the death of his mother and balancing his relationship with his estranged, workaholic daughter Angela (Christine Ko from “The Great Indoors”). She dislikes him for not showing her enough love, and wanted to hope they could rekindle their relationship. And that would also apply towards Zhenzhen (Fiona Fu as the older version), who finally finds the courage to demand a divorce from him.
There is still some happiness in his life, because he had a girlfriend named Yuan (Yo-Hsing Fang) before his unhappy marriage, and many years later, he reunites with her (Joan Chen). And before he got a real job in America, they used to dine and dash at snobby, fancy restaurants.
I’d be lying if I knew the whole exact story of the main protagonist’s life and situations, but I was able to read through his character as a broken man, affected by his past. Tzi Ma delivers a sentimental and complex performance in that role as the older version, and Hong-Chi Lee wins us over as his younger self. Christine Ko also provides the emotional weight of the film as his daughter in her own ways of trying to connect with him. And you also have radiant life in both Kunjue Li and Fiona Fu as the wife he never loved-with the younger one succumbing to the married wife rules (the husband has to work and the mother has to take care of their children) and then older one at her wit’s end with him.
“Tigertail” is able to overpower the cynicisms and mismatched relationships, and Alan Yang allows the actors to have life in them. They’re strong and emotional, and they win us over with one fell swoop.
Available for Streaming on Netflix