15th April 2020

Tigertail (Netflix) A Towering Taiwanese Triumph

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Tigertail(Netflix)

Starring Tzi Ma, Joan Chen, Christone Ko

Directed by Alan Yang

Rating: *** ½

Tigertail is a very sad film. Its protagonist Pin-Hui(Tzi Ma) is a deeply melancholic man who has willed an enforced emotional lockdown on himself . He tries not to think of the damage he has caused to the people close to him. Eventually his self-annihilating past catches up with him. The closing moments when Pin-Hui breaks down as he revisits his past with his daughter Angela(Christine Ko) are so healing they will wash away all your own troubles , reminding you that there are people in this world who have plenty to be unhappy about with or without the virus.

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The selfconsciously stylish narrative moves back and forth in time, capturing Pin-Hui as a young man in Taiwan(played in the flashbacks by Hong Chi Lee) battling poverty as his mother toils in a ramshackle factor that’s seen better days, the mother and the factory. Clearly Pin-Hui loves his mother as much as Amitabh Bachchan in Deewaar.

In a twist straight out of Yash Chopra’s Trishul Pin-Hui abandons the love of his life Yuan(Joan Chen) to marry his factor owner’s daughter Zhen Zhen(Fiuna Fu) for better prospects in America.

Tigertail has nothing new to say about those who deny themselves love for the sake of economic betterment. Nor does it spare any sympathy for such heartbreakers. But the narrative has a beating heart at its core, recording the lifelike movements of the compromised hero’s journey,with a neatness that never precludes the tangle underneath the hard-earned calm on the surface.

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It’s an epic tale told with unnecessary economy and austerity. Much of the characters’ emotional reckoning happens off camera. What we see on screen is a placid surface and the stirrings just underneath. For its restrained portrayal of an emotional lockdown Tigertail demands to be seen, specially by those who have rejected Netflix’s other new feature film Love Wedding Repeat. Come back, all is forgiven.

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