Verdict: 3.5 / 5
In twenty-four hours Jack (Gil Bellows) is set to go to jail for beating someone to death. Before he spends five years in the ‘big house’ his family has one last dinner at their deceased parents’ home. What follows, is a night of accusations, revelations and acerbic tit-for-tats that reveal a deeply dysfunctional but intriguing family.
The most striking aspect of ‘A Night for Dying Tigers’ is its nod to the Danish cinematic movement, Dogme95. The film follows many of the movement’s precepts in that it is low-budget, character driven, with no frills in its production and narrative. Jack’s adopted and under achieving sister Karen (Lauren Lee Smith) is charged with over-seeing the evening’s proceedings but she is emotionally unstable due to the death of the siblings’ parents one year ago. Adding to her woe is the love she feels for her questionable brother Patrick (Tygh Runyan) a successful film-maker. Patrick toys with Karen despite his engagement to another woman. He indulges in a physical relationship with his adopted sister making her confused and falling more in love with him. Older brother Russell (John Pyper-Ferguson) is an acclaimed novelist who causes more scandal by bringing along his nineteen year old girlfriend Carly (Leah Gibson). Jack’s wife Melanie (Jennifer Beals) is the moral centre and has to quietly deal with her husband’s infidelity with long time lover and family friend Jules (Kathleen Robertson).
The drama and intrigue is revealed very slowly. Terry Miles only gives us little bits of information and the least amount of context; you have to work hard to know the back story of each character. Miles avoids family drama clichés but sparks our interest by making us curios about what will happen next. As a viewer, you are constrained due to the lack of exposition but with each scene the film moves forward and something new is revealed.
The film is heavy on character but the cast works superbly together. ‘A Night for Dying Tigers’ might frustrate you because of the lack of context initially, but it rewards you with great dialogue, fine performances and an intriguing storyline. If you liked Dogme films like ‘Festen’ and ‘Italian for Beginners’ you should especially like this film.