TYGER TYGER (2021) is a perfect example of style over substance.
The film is beautifully shot by writer/director Kerry Mondragon and features a frenetic style that is both captivating and mesmerizing. Visually, this movie commands attention.
But in terms of story? That’s an entirely different matter all together.
In TYGER TYGER, a young woman Blake (Sam Quartin) and two of her friends rob a pharmacy for drugs. There is an unnamed pandemic wreaking havoc across the world, and Blake and her friends are stealing the drugs in order to distribute them to people who need them. During the robbery, a young man Luke (Dylan Sprouse) attempts to escape but is stopped, and when he is confronted by Blake, they share a moment. Later, Blake and her mute friend Bobby (Nekhebet Kum Juch) kidnap Luke in order to give him the prescription they stole from him during the robbery, but it turns out Luke is a drug addict who was selling the drugs.
The three of them then travel to a bizarre town where they are supposed to meet the contact who will distribute the drugs for them. But finding this person proves to be an ordeal, since the town is occupied by people who are either on drugs or wanting them.
That’s the plot of TYGER TYGER, and it actually sounds better here than it is. When the film opens, with the robbery scene captured with kinetic camerawork, there’s a vibe that is reminiscent of GOOD TIME (2017) and UNCUT GEMS (2019), two exceptional movies by writer/directors and brothers Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie. Those films both contained insane frenetic stories and camerawork, and the suspense and stress levels were off the charts as the films progressed. That’s not the direction taken by TYGER TYGER, which is more concerned with the relationship between Blake and Luke than its drug storyline. It’s basically a drug-induced love story.
Now, if there’s one thing that TYGER TYGER does well, is it definitely takes the viewer on a ride into a drug filled world, and the result is you really feel as if you are high as a kite and hallucinating while you are watching this flick. The whole thing plays out like a drug induced dream, which in fact, ultimately it is.
But for a story guy like me, the lack of a strong narrative here doesn’t do this movie any favors and really prevented me from liking this one all that much. Again, style over substance.
So, Kerry Mondragon scores higher as a director than a writer here. The film is a visual triumph, but its story struggles to get off the ground.
It also has a good cast. Sam Quartin is easily likable as the selfless thief who robs only to give to those in need. Her feelings towards Luke also come off as natural and real.
Dylan Sprouse is solid as Luke, the drug addict who Sam falls for. He also carries with him the poem “The Tyger” by William Blake, which is what the film’s title TYGER TYGER refers to. And Nekhebet Kum Juch shines as the quirky and sad mute Bobby.
The film is full of oddball characters who all make their mark in different moments in the film. There’s the slimy and scary Joe (Craig Stark), beautiful and mesmerizing Emerald (Thea Sofie Loch Ness), and the hypnotic and edgy Eggzema (Barbara Palvin), to name a few.
TYGER TYGER strives for deep philosophy on the human condition, but succeeds on the level of such a discussion when high on a mind altering substance. It’s the kind of thing that come the next morning you’re not likely to remember. Unless of course you opt for a second viewing.
And with such a threadbare story, that’s not something I have any interest in doing.