Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Tigertail Movie Poster Image
Immigrant finds fortune but loses love; some language.
  • PG
  • 2020
  • 91 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Live life while you can. Share your feelings with those you love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pin-Jui is hardworking but makes choices that ultimately hurt his loved ones.


A woman narrowly avoids serious injury in a factory accident. 


A young man and woman kiss and dance. She's later seen with her bra on and shirt open and he with his shirt off, presumably after they've had sex.


Infrequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "screw."  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tigertail is a wistful look back at the life of Pin-Jui, a Taiwanese man who gave up his great love to help make enough money to take care of his factory-worker mother. The story traces the way that great sacrifice earned Pin-Jui success in America but lost him his heart, his marriage, and possibly his daughter. Language includes infrequent use of "f--k" and "s--t." A couple kisses and dances closely; sex is implied. Adults drink alcohol. This movie will resonate with any viewers who wish they'd spent more time with either their parents or their kids.

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What's the story?

TIGERTAIL is the story of Pin-Jui (Hong-Chi Lee in youth, the elder played by Tzi Ma), a poor young Taiwanese man who loves two people: his mother, and Yuan, a wealthy local girl he's known since childhood (Yo-Hsing Fang as the younger and Joan Chen as the older). After years of dangerous factory work alongside his mother, he impulsively takes the factory owner's offer of an otherwise unaffordable ticket to America in exchange for marrying the boss's shy daughter, ZhenZhen (Kunjue Li in youth and Fiona Fu older), a woman he barely knows and doesn't love. He plans to make his fortune and ultimately bring his mother to an American life of leisure. Loveless, the couple struggles in New York. Flashbacks return us to the rapture of his love with Yuan and the warmth he and his mother shared. But although leaving them leads to financial security, it saps him of empathy going forward, and that emptiness and dissatisfaction nearly ruin the lives of many.

Is it any good?

This drama is unexpectedly moving, in part because the main character suppresses his emotions for so long that he doesn't recognize them until they smack him in the face late in life. So it's also late in the movie that our hearts open to him, allowing the conclusion's beauty and humanity to come flooding in. Lessons to be learned are elusive, but it does feel as if writer-director Alan Yang (co-creator of Master of None and writer-producer on Parks and Recreation) wants us to take stock as we watch. Weren't Pin-Jui's intentions good when he decided to leave his mother? Yet as a result he visits cruelty on a perfectly nice wife and a daughter longing for his love.

Tigertail feels like someone's real story, if not the story of many immigrants who come to America, leaving loved ones behind, in search of a better life, but at high personal cost. Yang's own Taiwanese father provided the film's narrative voice-over. Michael Brook's heart-tearing score is note-perfect.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why some people withdraw emotionally from life. What are some reasons Pin-Jui became distant from his wife and kids in Tigertail? Are these reasons justified? Why or why not?

  • What role does immigration play in the story? What would be most challenging about starting a new life in a foreign land?

  • How do you think the daughter feels about her father when she learns more about the difficult life he left behind in his youth? What message is the movie trying to highlight? 

  • Which characters, if any, serve as role models?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family tales

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