Some creative touches and a fine, final performance from Ed Asner help The Tiger Within take a bite out of teenage angst. Asner deservedly gets top billing as a Holocaust survivor named Samuel, though newcomer Margot Josefsohn spends more time on screen. She plays Casey, a rebellious, naïve teenager running away from the family that raised her badly, passing along antisemitic misinformation. Catching her sleeping in her swastika decorated jacket near his wife’s grave, Asner’s character stifles his initial reaction of disgust and reaches out a helping hand. Screenwriter Gina Wendkos imagines a world where that hand ultimately connects. This happens partly because 14-year-old Casey avoids prostitution and drug abuse, despite working in a massage parlor rather than attending school.
The script moves to a place that allows for growth, understanding, and moving forward, probably more than most real life provides, but made desirable and believable by its performers. Asner at age 89 when making the film, looks the part of an aging survivor, moving unsteadily but perfectly capable of hanging on to a German accent and delivering his lines with natural ease. Meanwhile, Josefsohn shows vulnerability that her slathering of Goth makeup never fully covers. Director Rafal Zielinski takes advantage of his stars’ skills, frequently moving his camera into extreme close-ups. He also plays with a few effects, including drawings and animations that suit the story, especially in closing shots that feature the title animal, a tiger symbolizing what the movie wants to promote: inner strength and beauty. Having played the film festival circuit for a couple of years, The Tiger Within hits theaters and streaming services this month.