The ability to forgive and empathize with others are valuable qualities to possess, as they allow one to live life without deep-seated resentment getting in the way of their happiness. In a world brimming with ignorance and fear, there are films designed to counter those societal flaws with optimistic redemption stories. Rafal Zielinski’s Tiger Within is a weighty drama that deals with trauma, forgiveness, love, and child neglect — except the final product is more of an idealized version of a more devastatingly raw story of humanity. “Embrace the dagger. Taking the tiger within us and becoming its master,” is a direct quote that speaks volumes for human determination in a movie that is driven by life lesson after life lesson.
Customarily wearing ripped denim jeans, a distinctive nose ring, and a glossy leather jacket, Casey (Margot Josefsohn) is a recalcitrant, punk-loving, and deeply frustrated teenager. She’s had about enough living with her reckless mother (Erica Piccininni) and her virulent boyfriend (Jonathan Brooks). Casey’s also an aspiring artist, which explains why there’s alluringly simple cartoon animation added throughout the motion picture to visually depict what she’s feeling at specific moments. Looking for a change, she leaves Ohio and travels to Los Angeles to live with her absentee father (James C. Victor). However, realizing that her father has a life with a new wife and three other daughters, Casey feels even more abandoned. She then wanders the streets of L.A. without a home, a mother, or a father.
“…Samuel and Casey form a friendship, and she learns more about what Samuel went through as a Holocaust survivor.”
Samuel (Ed Asner) is a reserved elder who spends his days at the local park and frequently visits the cemetery to pay his respects to a deceased loved one. It is at the cemetery where Samuel spots Casey sleeping near a tombstone. At first, Samuel is steered away from Casey because of a swastika sign spray-painted on her jacket, but he ultimately goes back to make sure she’s okay. Samuel offers to buy Casey food, and he even goes as far as to offer advice that money can’t buy. He bestows words of wisdom to an incredibly misguided and ill-informed teenager who doesn’t know any better. Eventually, Samuel and Casey form a friendship, and she learns more about what Samuel went through as a Holocaust survivor.
Tiger Within is a well-intentioned drama that promotes healing and redemption in the face of prejudice and fear. The film inspires, regardless of how inauthentic the heavy-handed dialogue and cursory conversations occasionally flow. Even so, Samuel has a few cherishable musings to behold more introspectively. One of the first lines of wisdom that Samuel imparts is especially sapient: “A thought is as powerful as a word. It can affect longer and stronger.” The quote came after Casey insults a waiter behind her back, which was a rather abrupt and mannered reaction. But the potency of the quote remains reasonably in-tact as a result of the older man’s calming, sagacious presence.
"…the messages of forgiveness, fortitude, and healing are splendidly universal."