Produced pre-pandemic, Tyger Tyger is a new drama film that is constantly juggling shifts in tone and an often languid pace. A quiet movie with very little action, this instead relies on a vibe more than anything. It explores only the surface of our characters yet fully-forms this strange world. The lack of narrative strength is somewhat anchored by a strong leading performance from a committed Dylan Sprouse.
After a robbery at a local pharmacy, a strange woman Blake (Sam Quartin) kidnaps drug addict Luke (Dylan Sprouse) with the intent that they will travel together to distribute life-saving medication. Along the way, Luke struggles with his ever-present addiction, stealing medication wherever he can and mooching off drifters for their stashes.
The blend of professional actors with genuine real-life dwellers of Slab City, California, is both a blessing and a curse. There’s an aura of authenticity this brings to the proceedings, but the performances themselves are lacking. It just takes one poor line delivery to completely pull you out of the experience. The movie’s final act is much stronger in this area than the rest. A gathering powered by a twangy version of The Decemberists’ iconic “Mariner’s Revenge Song” gives this world a heavy dose of reality. The unique fashion has a very distinct style and helps to make all of these people feel real. Dylan Sprouse is excellent and gives his character a lot of depth that seems to be absent from the script.
This feels very long because of the plot’s slower pace. We don’t get much in the way of action, minus the opening with the robbery and then again towards the end. I had thought this would be more of a road trip adventure, a journey of sorts. The journey itself doesn’t really kick into high gear until the last twenty minutes. The middle chunk consists of people hanging out and not much in the way of story. This feels very intentional though, as I think this movie was trying to hone in on a particular feeling and emotion rather than crafting a grandiose tale. I appreciated the ending itself as it brings the whole movie full circle in a beautiful way and serves as a less predictable closing chapter.
Similar to Tyger Tyger’s bizarre psychic, I’ve pulled the card of confusion when it comes to this film, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around some of the loftier ideas and themes they flirted with. The visuals are often colorful and beautiful, with the mostly desert-setting and sun-scorched vibes being easily the best thing here. It promises to explore some fascinating ideas and themes, but it never quite crosses the finish line. Tyger Tyger comes to select theaters, drive-ins, and VOD platforms on Friday, February 26th.