Tigertail (2020) Script


[Pin-Jui in Mandarin] My father died when I was a year old.

My mother did her best to take care of me on her own, but after she lost her job, she couldn't afford to provide for me anymore.

She left me with my grandparents, who lived in the rice fields, while she looked for work so we could be together again.

I missed my mother.

I felt alone without her.

So alone that, sometimes, I saw things because I wanted to see them.

[in Taiwanese] [ Mama? ]

[ Papa? ]

[ Mama? ]

[ Papa! Mama! ]

[ It's me! ]

[ Mama! ]


[ Mama! ]

[ Grandma! I saw my mom and dad! ]

[ It wasn't them. ]

[ Come help me find them! ]

[ You need to listen to me and be quiet! ]

[soldiers speaking in distance]

[ Get in the cabinet. ]

[knocking on door]

[in Mandarin] Inspection.

Who lives here?

[in Taiwanese] [ I don't speak Mandarin. Only Taiwanese. ]

[in Taiwanese] [ You should learn Mandarin. ]

[ It's the policy. That's what's spoken now. ]

[in Mandarin] I'm going to take a look.

[soldier 1] Mmm.

[in Taiwanese] [ Who lives here? ]

[ Just me and my husband. ]

[ Where is he? ]

[ In the fields, working. ]

[stick tapping]

[tapping continues]

[tapping continues]

[grandmother] [ Satisfied? ]

[ I have cleaning to do. ]

[ You sure you don't want us to stay for lunch? ]

[soldier 1] [ Hey. ]

[in Mandarin] Come on. Let's go.

[ There are still dissidents hiding. They could be anywhere. ]

[ You should be thanking us. ]

[vehicle engine starts]

[grandmother] [ You can come out now. ]

[ What did they want? ]

[ The Kuomintang run the country now. We have to follow their rules. ]

[ You're not registered here. ]

[ You can't tell anyone you're living with us. ]

[ Can I go back and look for my mom and dad now? ]

[ You're seeing things. ]

[ I'm not seeing things! They were working in the fields nearby. ]

[ I was running to go meet them, but then I fell down... ]

[ You talk too much! ]

[ Your father passed away. Making up stories won't bring him back. ]

[ It won't help your mom get a job back home, either. ]

[ But... ]

[ I miss them. ]

[ No crying, either. ]

[ I told your mother when she was your age: ]

[ Crying never solves anything. ]

[ Be strong. Never let anyone see you cry.]

[ Do you understand? ]

[ Are you going to cry now? ]

[in English] Sorry I was a little late.

I didn't even know you were in Taiwan until Bobby asked me to pick you up.

How was your trip?


[Yuan] [ Hey! ]

[ Where are you going? ]

[ What's wrong? Why won't you say anything? ]

[ My grandma says I talk too much. ]

[ It's okay. I won't tell her. ]

[ What's your name? ]

[ Pin-Jui. What's your name? ]

[ Yuan. ]

[ What are you doing with that bucket? ]

[young Pin-Jui] [ I'm going to get water from the river. ]

[ Want to come with me? ]

[ Okay. ]

[ But only if we race there! ]

[young Pin-Jui] [ Not fair! You got a head start! ]

[Pin-Jui in Mandarin] For a few moments, I forgot my loneliness.

Yuan and I spent much of the next year together.

It was one of the happiest times of my life.

After my mother found a job and I moved back to my hometown, I thought I'd never see her again.

But then, many years later, fate intervened.

[upbeat song playing]

[song ends]

[in Mandarin] One more dance.

I'm going outside to get some fresh air.

Maybe when I come back. Maybe.

[man] She's beautiful.

What the hell is she doing with you?

We met when we were kids, when I was living with my grandparents.

She moved here recently, and it just sort of happened.

Some guys get all the luck.

You have a girl like that, you ask her to marry you.

Her parents would never allow it. They're well off.

I'm a poor kid from a nothing village.

[man] Better have fun with her while you can, then.

I guess so.

[slow song playing]

I think you'll like this one.

Where'd you learn to dance?


What movies?

American movies.

Someday, I'll go there.

I'll bring my mom.

She won't have to work anymore.

Can I come?

Of course.

Who else am I going to dance with there?

Maybe Faye Dunaway.

Never mind. Don't come.

You would only get in the way of me and Faye.

[both laughing]

I'm hungry. Should we get something to eat?

Let's go to Yuelu.

No way. That's too expensive.

It's fine. My treat.

I can't let you do that.

I want to take you somewhere special.

We're going to Yuelu.

No more discussion.

You're the most stubborn person I've ever met.

[Pin-Jui] Mmm? [gasps]

[Yuan giggles]

Hello. Have you dined with us before?

Yes. Many times.

Really? Then you've seen the menu.

Prices are on the right.

Of course. We come here all the time.

I'm surprised you don't recognize us.

Fine, then. What would you like to order?

We'll start with the fried fish... and also the bitter melon... and a bowl of beef noodle soup.

Great. Thank you.

Is that it? That's it.

Right away.

Screw that guy.

He doesn't think we can pay? Who is he to judge us?

Is he wrong, though?

Not really, no.

[both chuckle]

[woman singing]

Hey. They've been rude to us all night.

Let's play a trick on them.

No. What are you talking about?

On the count of three, let's run out the door.

No, come on. [audience applauding]

Get ready. One, two, three!

[waiter] Hey! Come back, you bastards!

[up-tempo music playing]

[both panting]

You're crazy.

I want to spend the whole night with you, but I have to go home.

Why don't you ever let me see your place?

It's too fancy.

If I let you see it, you'll want me for my money, instead of my good looks and charm.



[Minghua] [ Where were you? ]

I thought you were sleeping.

[ I was pretending. ]

[ I heard you come in. ]

[ Where were you? ]

Just out with some friends. Go to sleep, Ma.

[ You go to sleep. You have to work tomorrow. ]

[Pin-Jui] So do you. You should rest up, or else Old Li is going to pick on you again tomorrow.

[ That's because I have to keep stopping my work to help you! ]

[ I was fine before you started working there. ]

Well, we can both agree that we don't like Old Li.

[ He's disgusting. ]

[ Once, I saw him eat a pork bun out of the trash. ]

[both laughing]


[Angela in English] You didn't do your dishes before you left.

I can help you with them.

No, it's okay.

I'll do it later.

I'm sorry about Grandma.

Thank you.

Are you all right?


I know this is a hard time for you, but I really wish you had told me about the funeral.

It was a small ceremony.

She was my grandmother.

You didn't really know her. You never visited.

The last time you were in Taiwan was when I took you and your brother when you were kids.

That's true.

It's a long trip. Very far away.

And I know you're busy at work.

You never talked much about her.

What she was like.

Are you sure you don't want help with the dishes?

No. It would only take me a second.

I'm fine.

Thank you for the ride.

Say hello to Eric for me.


[sorrowful music playing]

[Pin-Jui in Mandarin] My mother and I worked in the factory every day.

It was very hard work.

[ Hurry up! ]

Sometimes, I wasn't sure if I would make it through the day.

[ Hurry up! Why are you so slow? ]

[Pin-Jui] Sorry.

[ You're not hungover, are you? ]


Hey! Hmm?

[ Was it a girl? ]

[chuckling] No.


[ Little charmer. ]

[ So handsome. ]

Hey. Hey.

[ Look at him. Handsome, isn't he? ]

[ What do you know, anyway? Your husband has a face like a toad! ]

Hey, I think those are my gloves. [Minghua laughs]

[Minghua] [ Watch out! ]

[ The machine is dangerous! ]

[ Be more careful! ]

[ If the machine messes up your hand, no one will want to marry you. ]

[ Worse than having a toad face! ]


[indistinct chatter]

I've got something to talk to you about. Walk with me.

[Pin-Jui] Mmm-hmm.

I've heard you're interested in going to America. Is that true?

[chuckles] Um...

It's okay. You can tell me.

Yes. It's a dream of mine. Mmm-hmm.

[Old Li] It's a good goal. Many opportunities there.

Very expensive to go, though. How will you get there?

I don't know.

No, thank you.

I have a daughter, Zhenzhen.

We've been looking for someone dependable for her.

Would you be interested in meeting her?

So, do you like going to school?

It's okay.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

I'm not sure.

Maybe become a nurse or a teacher.

Food's not bad, huh?

[Yuan] You're late.

I'm sorry.

[Yuan] Where were you?

Nowhere. I lost track of time.

And then I had to stop and pick up this.

You didn't steal that, did you?

I've heard you go to restaurants and leave without paying.

I only do that when I'm with my girlfriend.

She's a bad influence!

Come on.

[Pin-Jui] This is nice.


You know who I heard on the radio today?

Otis Redding.

It's been stuck in my head all day.

[Yuan singing in English] ♪ Sitting in the morning sun ♪

♪ I'll be sitting when the evening comes ♪

♪ Watching the ships roll in ♪

♪ Then I watch 'em roll away again ♪

♪ Mmm ♪

[both] ♪ Sitting on the dock of the bay ♪

♪ Watching the tide roll away ♪

♪ Sitting on the dock of the bay ♪

♪ Wasting time ♪

[Pin-Jui in Mandarin] You have a beautiful voice.

So do you.

You should be a singer.

Maybe in another life.

Where were you earlier?

I was at home.

It's not like you to be late.

Were you with somebody else?

[Pin-Jui] No.

Don't be silly.

I'm just asking.

Do you want to see where I live?

Told you it was fancy.

Do you like it?

[Yuan] Mmm.

I like it.

[sorrowful music playing]

[Angela in English] Do you like the apartment?

It's very nice.

Sure you can afford it?


Is this about Eric's job again?


I would just feel more comfortable if you were with someone who could support you.

Money's not the only important thing in a relationship.

It's very important.

You're too young.

You don't really know what's important yet.

And you do?

More than you.


I don't know why you think you're the one to give advice.

It's not like your marriage turned out perfect.

He's not very ambitious.

He should work harder. He's not like you.

Maybe that's good.

I could use some balance in my life.

It's too soon.

We've been together for eight months.

That's not very long.

You don't know him well enough.

I know he's a good person.

He makes me happy.

You really think that's enough?

We're getting married. I don't know what else there is to say.

[door opens and closes]

[sorrowful music playing]


[indistinct chatter]

[ Pin-Jui! ]

[ Hurry up! ]

[ You need to hurry up! Always so slow. ]

[Minghua grunts]

[ What's going to happen when you're old? ]

[ I don't know how you could get any slower. ]

Don't go so fast. Take your time. [Minghua] [ It's fine. ]

[Pin-Jui] Slow down, take it easy. [Minghua] [ Leave me alone! ]


[Minghua grunting]

[exhales sharply] Are you okay?

[ I'm fine. ]

You've got to fix these machines! They don't stop!

Are you sure you're okay?

[ I'm fine. ]

I'll go get a bandage. [ I'm fine. ]

[ I said I'm fine. ]

[indistinct chatter]

[Minghua winces]

That job is too dangerous.

Those machines are old and broken. You shouldn't have to work there anymore.

[ What other option do I have? ]

[ Maybe... ]

[ I could be a ballet dancer? ]

[ Right? ]

[ Come on. ]

[ It's fine. I like it at the factory. ]

No, you don't. It's miserable there.

You complain every day.

[ Don't tell me what I like and don't like. ]

[ I can be happy with what I do even if it isn't something fancy. ]

[ What's the point in dreaming... ]

[ of something else that won't happen? ]

What if I made enough money so you could retire and live somewhere else?

[ Maybe. ]

[ How would you do that, though? ]


[ Do you have a secret way of making money I don't know about? ]

[ Let's hear it. ]



[ I didn't think so. ]


[Minghua grunting] [ Don't just stand there! ]

[ Help me load up the car. ]


[Pin-Jui] You can get in. All right.

I'll send for you when I get settled.

[ Get a job first. That's more important. ]

[ Hopefully in America, they're okay with people who work as slow as you. ]

Bye, Ma.

[ Goodbye. ]

[engine starts]

[sorrowful music playing]

[cell phone ringing]

[in Mandarin] Hello?

[Zhenzhen] Pin-Jui?

It's Zhenzhen.


I know it's been a long time since we've spoken.

I just talked to Angela.

She told me your mother passed away.

I'm sorry to hear that.

Thank you.

How are you?

I'm okay.

She lived a long life.

I know you cared about her very much.

Angela said you didn't tell her about the service.

Why not?

She's very busy with work.

I didn't want to bother her.

She works too much. She's never at home.

I'm worried.

I think she's having a hard time.

I didn't know that.

Maybe it would help if you talked to her more.

We live separate lives.

You're very hard on her.

I'm not hard on her. I only want what's best for her.

That may be your intention, but it's not the way it seems to her.

Think about it.

You should see her more.

She's your only daughter.

[piano playing]

[audience applauding]

Don't cry.

Crying never solves anything.

Be strong.

[sorrowful music playing]


[Pin-Jui] When we arrived in America, it wasn't exactly as I had pictured it.

[siren wailing]

But I had made my choice.

There was no turning back now.

Uh... There's a window.


Should we go out to eat to celebrate?



We can't afford this.

It is very expensive.

This is embarrassing.

It's okay.

We don't have to eat here.

Let's go.

[upbeat song playing]

Uh... Do you dance at all?

Um... Not really.

I get too embarrassed.

Do you?

I used to. Sometimes. [chuckles softly]

Do you want to dance?

Um... No, it's okay.

[upbeat song continues playing]

[Zhenzhen] Excuse me.

Are you Taiwanese?

Yes. Why? Oh.

Uh, I just moved here.

I don't know anyone in the city.

Not very many Taiwanese people here.

Mostly black or Puerto Rican.

I thought maybe you were Korean.

No. I'm from central Taiwan.

I'm from Zhongli.

Oh. [Peijing] Thank God you're not Korean.

I have Korean neighbors.

They're very loud and they cook kimchi all day long.

Stinks up the whole building.


I haven't talked to anyone besides my husband in a long time.

Do you like him at least?


He's okay. He has to work a lot.

I get so bored in the apartment.

Nothing to do but clean and sit on the couch by myself.

I actually come to the laundromat with small loads just to see other people.

That's very sad.


I know.

Come have tea with me.

Always good to have someone to speak Mandarin with.

[Zhenzhen] Okay.

[door opens]

You're back.

[Zhenzhen] Yeah.

How's Peijing?

She's okay. She sprained her ankle last week.

Again? Didn't she do that a month ago?


The doctor gave her a funny boot to walk around in this time.

That's too bad.

Should I make us something to eat? [Pin-Jui] Wait...

First, I want to show you something.

Come on.

[keyboard plays]

Do you like it?

I know I haven't been home very much, and you haven't had the easiest time adjusting to America.

It's okay.

[plays keyboard]

I thought maybe we could learn how to play together.

Thank you.


What should I make us tonight?

Mapo tofu?


[Zhenzhen] I'll go make it now. Mmm.

[playing and humming tune]


You know how to play already!

I learned it just while you were out... [chuckles softly]

[continues playing and humming tune]

[tune playing on piano]

[piano tune stops]


[Peijing] Here. Eat some more.

[Zhenzhen] Thank you.

It's even worse since he took over the store.

He's always tired.

He never wants to go out or do anything.

You've been married for a while.

Of course he doesn't make an effort anymore.

At least he's still handsome.

Look at this guy.

You're not winning any beauty pageants.

We don't have anything in common.

Eventually, your life together is what you'll have in common.

Maybe. It hasn't happened yet.

What'd you put in this meatball? It tastes like shit.

Then cook it yourself. Quit your whining.

[Zhenzhen chuckles]

[Pin-Jui] We're ready for you.

The apartment's ready. Everything's ready.

[Minghua] [ How much space do you have? ]

I told you already.

It's not big, but it's bigger than your house.

[ That's very small for three people. ]

[ What would I do all day? ]

You wouldn't have to do anything. You could retire, like we talked about.

[Minghua] [ I don't know anyone there. ]

I didn't either, but you can meet people once you're here.

[ I don't even speak the language! ]

We talked about this before I left.

I thought this is what you wanted.

[ It's what you wanted, not what I wanted! ]

[ I'm staying here. I'm fine. ]

[ I'm going to work now. I don't have time for this. ]




Where were you?

I went to Peijing's for dinner.

You didn't tell me.

I thought you'd be at work. I lost track of time.

There was no food in the house.

I'm sorry.

Peijing thinks if I go to school for just a few years, I can get a teaching credential.

What for?

Then maybe I could become a teacher.

Forget about it.

After we have kids, you won't have time to work anyway.

Well, we don't have them yet.

Screw him!

Just take the classes and see what happens.

Mmm. I think you're right.

I'll look into when they start.

Good. You won't regret it.

Let's go get ice cream.

Again? Aren't you worried you'll get fat?

I'm already married. Who gives a shit?

[both chuckle]

[sorrowful music playing]

Do you want to pack these?

No. You can throw them out.



[in English] Are you done? Yes.

Is something wrong?

You asked me to have lunch with you.

And I appreciate that.

But then, after we sat down, you just... sat there for an hour and barely said anything.

Didn't seem like you wanted to talk.

How you doing?

Is everything okay?

[shakily] Yeah. I'm fine.

Actually, that's not true. I'm not fine.

Eric left me.

I don't think he's coming back.

I'm sorry.

It's been really hard.

And the worst part is...

I think it was my fault.

Are you gonna say anything?

Sounds difficult.

What else is there to say?

I don't know.


Didn't you go through the same thing with Mom?

It was different.

I wouldn't know because you never told me what happened.

[Pin-Jui] Would that help?

Why can't you just say something nice?

You could try to make me feel better.

You could tell me that everything's gonna be okay.

All I ever wanted, my whole life...

was to feel like I had someone who cared about me, no matter what happened.

I never got that from you.

You're my father.

I don't even know how to talk to you. I never have.

Maybe it's easier if we just stop trying.

[footsteps receding]

[door opens and closes]


[in Mandarin] What happened to the hedges out front?

I told the gardeners they could trim them.

Why did you do that?

They trimmed too much.

You weren't here. I didn't know what you wanted.

They look terrible. How could you not know?

Hey. They'll take forever to grow back now.

I don't want to be with you anymore.


I want a divorce.

No, you don't.

Don't tell me what I want.

I'm leaving.

You're acting crazy. Go to sleep.

The kids are gone.

I only stayed for them.

This is my house. You do what I say. I don't care about your stupid house.

I've made up my mind. I'm leaving.

You treat me like a servant.

I give you everything. Nice clothes, a nice car.

I don't care about that stuff.

Oh, I see.

You're spoiled by America.

That's not how we do things.

Don't forget, I was the one who brought you here.

My dad paid for it.

You had nothing.

Yes, I came here with nothing.

And I built all of this myself, while you stayed at home.

I raised our children while you were never home.

Where were you all those nights? Where?

I never cheated on you.

It doesn't matter.

You take me for granted.

I'm leaving.

Good! Get out. I never wanted to marry you.


I used to think you could learn to care about anyone other than yourself.

But you can't.

And you never will.

You're broken inside.

If I could travel back in time, I would go back to the moment I met you

and run far away.

So far that I would never see you again.

[door opens]

[door closes]

[sorrowful music playing]


[cell phone chimes]

[cheerful music playing]


[Pin-Jui] Yuan? Pin-Jui?

[Pin-Jui] Yes. It's me.

[both chuckle]

Did you get taller?

[chuckles] I think you shrank, old man!

[chuckles] Probably. Here, come sit.

How was your trip in? Not bad.

New York is amazing. Much more exciting than Maryland!

Is the weather always this nice in the spring?

Usually, yes.

Maybe I should spend more time here.

You definitely should. [chuckles]

Hey, they have spicy beef noodle soup here.

Do you still like it?

Should we get some? Of course!

This is delicious.

You have such good Chinese food here.

Yes. Another perk of living here.

Should we run away without paying like we did at Yuelu?

It would be fun... but I have money to pay now.

You used to be so crazy.

You were crazier.

I was just doing crazy stuff to impress you.

You scared me.

We were bad for each other.

I don't think so.

Can I ask you something?

Of course.

The day I left, I was in the back of a car leaving town.

I thought I saw you out the window. Was that you?


I thought it was you.

But when I looked back, you were gone.

I didn't know if I was dreaming or not.

I saw you.

But I couldn't bear to watch you go, so I left.

It's a shame.

Can I ask you something?

It's so long ago, I feel like I can finally ask.

Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?

I had to find out where you went from neighborhood gossip.

What good would it have done?

What would have changed?

I guess we'll never know.

You seem to have a good life now.

It's not bad.

My husband just retired.

We have a lot of time on our own now.

That's nice.

And you? Hmm?

How are your kids?

Good. Bobby has a band that's done very well.

He just got back from a tour in Europe.

What about Angela?

She's having a harder time.

She works too much.

She has trouble getting along with people.

I don't know how to talk to her.

She's very stubborn.

You should know something about that.

Maybe before she opens up, she needs you to open up to her first.

It's never too late.


This was fun. Thank you for lunch.

You're welcome. It was good to see you.

[Yuan] Bye. Bye.

[footsteps receding]

[poignant music playing]

[indistinct chatter]

[in English] Hi, everybody.

I just wanted to say a little something.

As you know, this hasn't been the easiest year for me, but it really means a lot to see all your faces again, and be able to celebrate together. Thank you so much for coming.

Happy Chinese New Year.

[all] Happy New Year.


Do you want anything else to drink? Wine?

No. Tea's fine.


Here you go. Of course. [man] Thank you.

I'm so glad you guys could make it out here for the party.

You should visit more often.

It's hard for me to miss work. My students miss me! [chuckles]

I substitute for her sometimes.

They love her. They think she's very funny.

I'm sure they do. Are you guys traveling anywhere this year?

For spring break, we're gonna go to Costa Rica and then, in the summer, we go back to Croatia.

Wow! That sounds really fun.

Yeah. We can't wait.

[Zhenzhen chuckles]

[footsteps approaching]

I thought you'd left.


You don't have to help. I got it.

It's okay.


I can do the rest.

Why don't you go to the dining room? I'll make us some tea.


Mom seems happy.

I'm glad for her.

This is the first time I've hosted this party by myself, without Eric.

Sometimes, I wonder if I'll ever find anyone like him again.

When we were together...

it just felt different.

Do you know what I mean?


There was a woman once.

I knew her before your mother.

In Taiwan.

I didn't know that.

There are many things I never told you.

What did you do after Mom left?

I went home.

[poignant music playing]

[Pin-Jui in Mandarin] My father died when I was a year old.

My mother left me with my grandparents, who lived in the rice fields.

I worked here with my mother for several years.

It was hard work, but I was grateful that we were together.

Your grandmother was a very strong woman.

Like you.

We walked home together on this path every day.


This was our house.

It didn't look like this the last time I was here.

There was a bar down there.

The girl and I used to go there to dance.

What was her name?


[crying softly]

[poignant music playing]

[poignant music playing]

[piano music playing]