CHENNAI: Many films on immigrants focus on their plight in the new land, but Alan Yang’s new offering on Netflix, “Tigertail,” though inspired by his own father’s story who migrated from Taiwan to the US, has much more to say about the protagonist’s relationship with four women in his life — his mother, his former girlfriend in Taiwan, his wife in the US and his daughter. While Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma in his middle age, Hong-Chi Lee as a young man and Zhi-Hao Yang as a boy) shares an extremely warm bond with his mother and his former girlfriend, his relationship with his wife and daughter is strained.
The movie opens in the rice fields of Taiwan where we see a boy who has been sent by his single mother to live with his grandparents. Later, Pin-Jui relocates to a town to work along with his mother, who is a factory-hand. Torn between his dream to migrate to the US and better his dreary prospects, he gives up his girlfriend to marry the factory owner’s daughter who gives them tickets to America. Although he finally finds financial success, his personal life falls into a rut. Divorced and lonely, his only child, daughter Angela (Christine Ko), does not keep in touch with him.
Yang — known as the producer-writer behind the brilliant “Parks and Recreation,” “Master of None” and “Little America” — splendidly juxtaposes the present with the past and by keeping the plot simple, confusion is avoided. Some of the most impressive scenes are Pin-Jui’s days with his first love, Yuan (Yo-Hsing). Later, Pin-Jui as an older, grumpy and distraught man, finds it hard to break the ice with Angela, and some of the touching snapshots come in the scenes between the two, but Ko is too wooden to leave a mark.
"Tigertail" has the ingredients of modern Asian cinema and one can see that Yang has been influenced by masters like Wong Kar-wai and Edward Yang, although the movie does not achieve narrative brilliance. However, Yang’s work is deeply touching and is hauntingly authentic. Above all, it has a message. He said in one of his interviews that at a time when “Asian Americans have been the targets of racist attacks fueled by misguided links to the coronavirus pandemic, their visibility through movies like ‘Tigertail’ can help combat the problem.”