Best known as co-creator of Master of None, Alan Yang brings the deeply personal story of his family’s history to Netflix. Tigertail tells the story of Pin-Jui, a poor Taiwanese factory worker who embarks on a new life in the US in the late 60s. Leaving behind his childhood sweetheart, he becomes disillusioned and struggles to create the picture-perfect life he had envisioned for his family.

Yang creates a powerful image of the struggles Taiwanese people faced living under Chinese martial law, but manages to balance it beautifully with Pin-Jui’s life there as a young adult falling in love. It’s deeply romantic while never losing sight of the poverty surroundings its characters. The cinematography throughout is beautiful, from Taiwanese rice fields to 1970s New York City. Shots are unhurried, as is the story, with Yang letting it carefully unfold.

It’s unfortunate that everything suddenly starts to falter when we come to the present day. Pin-Jui has become bitter and angry towards everyone, and with this becomes a deeply unlikeable character. While it’s understandable why he is now this way, there doesn’t seem to be a trace of his younger self here. Tzi Ma gives a truly solid performance as the older Pin-Jui, but the script really lets down both him and Christine Ko, playing his daughter Angela.

Angela is an unforgivably two-dimensional character, painted as a businesswoman who’s unable to hold down a relationship – the clichés here come thick and fast. Dialogue is stilted and painfully predictable whenever a father-daughter conversation happens. Whereas the story of Pin-Jui’s early years seems to come very naturally, these scenes of his later life seem rushed and carelessly done.

Tigertail has beautiful and moving moments throughout, and could’ve easily been something great had some more time been spent simply developing the characters just that little bit more.


Available to watch on: Netflix


CAST: Christine Ko, Fiona Fu, Tzi Ma, Joan Chen


WRITER: Alan Yang

SYNOPSIS: A multi-generational tale of one family from 1950’s Taiwan to present-day New York.