The Tiger Rising (2022) - full transcript

A young boy discovers a caged tiger in the woods near his home.

Have you
ever been inside a cage?

Not a real one,
with metal bars and a lock,

though I have had
some experience with those.

No, I'm talking about
the kind of imaginary cage

we build to protect ourselves.

That's the kind of cage
that my friend Rob and I

were trapped inside
when we were ten years old,

before we unearthed the key
that would set us free

and before we met
the magnificent creature

who would change our lives

Ain't no point in cryin'.

Crying ain't gonna
bring her back.

- Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place."
- Yes, sir.

Looky here.
It's the Kentucky Star.

How's it like
to be a star?

Billy, he don't know
what it's like to be a star.

Hey, guess what? This ain't Kentucky.
This is Florida.

Yeah. You don't know what it's
like to be a star anywhere.

Got it?

Oh. Look at him.

He's got creeping crud
all over him.

God, he's gross.

Hey, Mr. Nelson.
What are you doing?

This ain't no stop,
Mr. Nelson.

Hey, this is a school bus.

I know that.

You're all dressed up
to go to a party.

This ain't no party bus.

It's not my fault
you don't have good clothes.

We're sorry.
We didn't mean nothing by it.

What's your name?


Sistine? What kind of
stupid name is that?

Like the chapel.

What are you looking at?

Yeah. What are you looking at,
disease boy?

Come on.

You and me.

We see the world the same.


That's God giving life to Adam
with just his touch.

That's what Michelangelo
was trying to say.


And Michelangelo
didn't even want to paint it.

He thought he was a better
sculptor than a painter.

Can you believe that?

No way.

The whole ceiling
is a fresco.

- You know what "fresco" means?
- No, ma'am.

It means
that a painter goes in there

and paints on all that plaster real fast...

You got all them rooms
cleaned good?

Have I ever not got all
these rooms cleaned good?

Come to think of it,
I don't think so.

Then let's just assume

that I got all these rooms
cleaned really good.

Save us both some time.

Hey, girl,
don't you give me no lip.

I ain't paying you
to be a smart mouth.

You barely pay me
to breathe.

Hey, man.

Can you point me
out to the spa?

- Spa?
- Yeah.

Does this place look like
it has a spa to you?

Sorry to hear
about your inadequacies.


My name is Sistine Bailey.

What a lovely name.

Thank you.

I'm from Philadelphia,

home of the Liberty Bell,
and I hate the South

because the people in it
are ignorant.

And I'm not staying here
in Lister.

My father is coming
to get me next week.

Thank you for introducing
yourself, Sistine Bailey.

You may take your seat now

before you put your foot
in your mouth any further.

I want to talk
about last week's test.

Y'all didn't do so great.

We're gonna
figure this out together

and see where we went wrong.

We're gonna go over...

Mom, I can't do this.

Let me see that.

Oh, sure you can
whittle that.

I'll show you.
It ain't hard. Okay.

Hey, buddy.
Don't jiggle that bed.

Your mama's
in a lot of pain.

He ain't hurting me,

Don't tire yourself out
with that wood.

It's all right.

I'm just teaching Rob
some things I know.


Now you do some.


You already know
what to do.

Your hands know.

You know, it helps with the whittling
when you stick your tongue out.


Rob, I need you to go
to the principal's office.


Rob Horton?

Mr. Phelmer wants to see you
in his office.

Do you understand?

Yes, ma'am.

Billy, I saw that.

Good morning, Rob.

You doing okay today?

Yes, sir.

We've been
a bit worried.

It's about your legs.
May I take a look?

Yes, sir.


Ooh. Uh...

That doesn't look good,
does it?

Yeah, that don't
look good at all.

Look, uh...

here's the situation, Rob.

Some of the parents,

and I'm not gonna mention names,
are worried that what you...

what you got there
might be contagious.

"Contagious," meaning something the
other students could possibly catch.

Now, you tell me
the truth, son.

You've been using that
medicine you told me about?

- You've been puttin' that on?
- Yes, sir.

Well, I'm gonna be up-front
and honest with you, Rob.

I think it might be a good idea
if I let you stay home a few days.

Give that medicine time
to kick in, work its magic,

and then we'll bring you back to
school once your leg's better.

Does that sound like a plan?

That'd be all right.

All right. Well, good.

Well, here's what
I'm gonna do.

I'm just gonna write a little
letter to your parents...

I mean, your father.

We'll let him know
what's what.

And you tell him

if he has
any questions at all,

he can just give me a call,
all right?

Yes, sir.

All right.
There you go.

Oh. Yeah, yeah.
See you around, bud.

We all have our challenges.

Why, thank you.

My pleasure, ma'am.

What's your name?

Rob Horton.

Very pleased
to meet you, Rob Horton.

I'm Miss Mills.
What you got there?

It ain't nothin'.

May I see it?

Well, look at that.

Did you draw this?

Yes, ma'am.
It ain't nothin'.

Sure don't look like nothin'.

You're a dang good artist, Rob.

I wanna see more.

Why don't you stop by tomorrow
and show me some of your artwork?

I can't.

Mr. Phelmer wants me to stay home for
a few days. On account of my legs.

Well, I had a hard time
in fifth grade myself.

I understand.

When you come back,
make sure to stop by and see me. Promise?

Yes, ma'am.

Look where you came from, loser.


Leave her alone!

- Who are you talking to?
- Yeah. Who do you think you're talking to?

I said, leave her alone.

- You're gonna make me?
- Ooh!

There isn't any place to sit.

It's not like
I want to sit here.


What's your name?

Rob Horton.

Well, let me tell you something,
Rob Horton.

You shouldn't run.

That's what they want you
to do is run.

I hate it here.

This is a stupid hick town
with stupid hick teachers.

No one in the whole school even
knows what the Sistine Chapel is.

I know.


I know what
the Sistine Chapel is.

I bet.
I bet you know.

It's a picture of God
making the world,

like it says in Genesis.

It's in Italy.

The pictures are painted
on the ceiling.

They're frescoes.

Uh, I don't gotta go to
school on account of my legs.

I got a note
that says so.

Mr. Phelmer, the principal,
says that the other parents are worried

that what I got
is contagious.

Please let me catch it.

Please, please, please.

Please, please, please
let me catch it.

You won't.
It ain't contagious.

Please, please, please.

- It ain't a disease. It's just me.
- Please, please.

Where do you live?

In the motel.
The Kentucky Star.

You live in a motel?

It ain't permanent.
Just until we get back on our feet.

Well, I'll bring you
your homework.

I'll bring it to you
at the motel.

That stuff ain't nothing
nobody else can catch.

I know it.

I told that to the principal once before.
Called him up and told him that.

Yes, sir.

You wanna stay home?

I'll maybe make
an appointment,

get one of them doctors
to write down

what you got
ain't catching.

Yes, sir.

But I won't do it
for a few days.

All right?
Give you some time off.

That would be all right.

You got to fight 'em.

Them boys.

I know you don't want to,
but you got to fight 'em.

Else they won't ever
leave you alone.

Yes, sir.

All right.

In the meantime,

you can help me out
around here.

Do some maintenance work for me,
some sweeping and cleaning.

Beauchamp's running me ragged.
Don't know who the hell he thinks he is.

Can't you just get a job
somewhere else?

Go on and hand me
that medicine.

Do you think Beauchamp is
the richest man in the world?


He don't own but this one
itty-bitty motel now,

and the woods.

He likes to pretend
he's rich is all.

All right. There you go.

- Can I go outside?
- No.

I don't want that medicine to get
rained off. It costs too much.

Go and get washed up.
Gonna have supper.

Someday you and me
are gonna have a house

with a real stove.

I'll do
some good cookin' then.

This is good.

Eat all you want.
I ain't hungry.

It doesn't look
like no butterfly.

Hmm? No, it don't.

Looks like it wants
to be a fish.

But I was whittling
a butterfly.

But the wood
had other ideas.

You can never tell what's
gonna come out of the wood.

It does what it wants,
and you just follow.

Go on. You might as well
finish your fish.

Put me down!

Come on, son.

Come on.
You're a working man now.

Got to get up.

You know what?

No, ma'am.

I'll tell you what.

I'd rather clean up
after pigs in a barn

than clean up behind some
of the people in this place.

Pigs at least give you
some respect.

What you staring at?

What you doing
out of school?

I don't know.

What you mean,
you don't know?

Don't be shaking your
shoulders up and down to me

like some little bird tryin'
to fly away or somethin'.

You want to end up cleaning
motel rooms for a living?

That's right.
Ain't nobody want this job.

I'm the only fool
Beauchamp can pay to do it.

You better stay in school,
else you'll end up like me.

Tell me why
you ain't in school.

On account of my legs
being all broke out.


How long have you had that?

A while.

You know I can tell you
how to cure that.

I can tell you right now.
Ain't got to go to no doctor.



You carryin' all that sadness
down low in your legs.

Not letting it get up
to your heart, where it belongs.

You got to let
that sadness rise up.

The principal thinks
it's contagious.

Man ain't got no sense.

He's got all these certificates,

and they're framed
and hung up on his wall.

I'll bet he ain't got one
for sense, huh?

I got to clean
some more rooms.

You ain't gonna forget
what I told you though, are you?

- No, ma'am.
- What'd I tell you?

To let the sadness rise.

That's right.
You let that sadness rise on up.

Hey, disease boy!

Here comes your
girlfriend, disease boy!



I brought your homework.


That art teacher
was asking for you.

She had glue in her hair.

Why is this place called
the Kentucky Star?

Because Beauchamp,
the owner,

he had a horse once,
named it Kentucky Star.

Well, it's a stupid name
for a motel in Florida.

He must be extremely stupid.

Fine, then.

I know
where there's a tiger.


Come on.

Well, we gotta walk
through the woods.

Oh, well, you can just give me
some of your clothes to wear.

I hate this outfit anyway.

This way.

Good Lord!

We don't get much company.

Oh, my goodness.

Where did you get them?

I made them.


the man who painted
the Sistine ceiling...

he sculpted too.

You're a sculptor.

You're an artist.





It's like looking into
a little wooden mirror.

What are you looking at?

Come on. Give me some
clothes so we can go see the tiger.

Here you go.

Excuse me.
May I have some privacy, please?


Now, show me this tiger.

This is where
my mother grew up.

Right here in Lister.

And she always told herself

that if she ever
made it out of here,

she was not
going to come back.

But now she's back

'cause my father had an
affair with his secretary,

whose name is Bridgette

and who can't even type,

which is a really,
really bad thing for a secretary,

like, not to be able to do.

He's coming down here
to get me.


Next week, probably.

I'm definitely not staying
here, that's for sure.

Ain't you worried
about messing up your shoes?

No. I hate these shoes.

I hate every single piece
of clothing

that my mother
makes me wear.

This way.

Does your mother
live with you?


Where is she?

My mother's going to open up
a store downtown.

It's gonna be an art store.

She's gonna bring some
culture to this backward town.

She could sell some
of your wood sculptures.

They ain't sculptures.
Just whittling, that's all.

No. I said
they're sculptures.

We got to be quiet. Beauchamp don't
want people walking around on his land.

Is this his land?

Yeah. Everything's his.

The motel, the woods,


He can't own

I don't care.

He can catch us.
He can put us in jail for trespassing.

I don't care.

Well, if we're in jail,
we won't get to see the tiger.

Where's your mother?

You got to be quiet.

I do not have to be quiet!

I want to know where
your mother is.

You know, you don't know
how to talk to people.

I told you about my father
and my mother and Bridgette,

and you didn't
even say anything.

You won't even tell me
about your mother.

Keep your stupid secrets.
Keep your stupid tiger too.

I don't care!

Wait up! Wait up!


She's dead.

My mama's dead.


- Well, where's the tiger?
- Just hold on. He's right around the back.


He's beautiful.

Don't get too close.
He might not like it.

It's just like the poem.


The one that goes,

"Tyger, tyger, burning bright,
in the forests of the night."

It's just like that.

He burns bright.



What's he doing way out here?

I don't know.
He's Beauchamp's, I guess.

- Beauchamp's what? His pet?
- I don't know.

I just like to come out here and
look at him. Maybe he does too.

That's selfish.

This isn't right for this tiger
to be in a cage. It's not right.

Well, we can't do
nothin' about it.

We could let him go.
We could set him free.

There's all them locks.

We could saw through them.


We have to set him free.

It ain't our tiger to let go.

But it is our tiger to save!


It's a car. A car's coming!
It's Beauchamp!

We got to go!
Come on!

Is he behind us?

Stop shrugging
your shoulders at me.

I hate it.

I hate the way
you shrug all the time!

You look like a big,
stupid bird flapping its wings!


- Yes, sir?
- Where you been?

Out in the woods.

- Finish all them jobs I told you to do?
- Yes, sir.

All right.
Who you got with you?

This is Sistine.


This yours?

Yes, it is.

You live around here?

For now.

Your folks know
you're out here?

I was going
to call my mother.

We got a pay phone
over in the laundry room.

In the laundry room?

We don't got a phone
in the motel room.

Well, can I have
some change, at least?

Oh, yeah.

Do you want me
to go with you?

No. I'll find it,
thank you very much.

She certainly
seems to be a handful.

Yes, sir.

What's she doing
in your clothes?

she had a dress on.

It was too pretty
to wear it in the woods.


All right.
Go on in.

Let's get that medicine
on your legs.

Yes, sir.

My mother's coming
to get me.

Here's your clothes.

How come you don't have
a phone?

Hmm. Ain't nobody to call,
I guess.

I like to look up
at things.

So do my mother
and father.

That's how they met.

They were looking up at the
ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

and they weren't watching where they
were going and bumped into each other.

That's why
I'm named Sistine.

I like your name.

How did your mother die?


What was her name?

I ain't supposed
to talk about her.

Why not?


My dad says it don't do
no good to talk about her.

He says that she's gone,

and there ain't nothing
we can do about it.

That's why we moved here
from Jacksonville.

Because everybody always
wants to talk about her.

We moved here
to get on with things.

That's my mother.

I'll come back tomorrow.

Then we'll make our plans
to let the tiger go.

Baby, what in the world?

What in the world
are you doing out here?

Oh, good lord!
What have you got on?


Sissy, you look like a hobo.
Get in the car.

Well, you must be Rob.

- What's your last name, Rob?
- Horton.

Horton. Are you related to Seldon
Horton, the congressman?



No, ma'am.
I don't think so.


Sissy, get in the car.

She won't listen
to a word I say.

Her father is the only one she'll
listen to. Her father, the liar.

You're the liar!
You're the one who lies!

Good lord!

- Seat belt, missy!
- I know!


Her name was Caroline.


No, not yet.

Hold your horses.


Yes, go ahead.
Plug it in.

There you go.


Nice job, you two.

You ever been to a zoo?

I've been to
that one over in Sorley.

Place stunk
to high heaven.

Do you think them animals
minded being locked up?

Well, nobody asking them
if they minded.

Do you think it's bad
keepin' animals locked up?

You know,
when I wasn't but little,

my daddy bought me
a bird in a cage.

It was a little green
parakeet bird.

That thing was so small,

it could fit
in the palm of my hand.

I could see
his little heart beating.

He would look at me and cock his
head like this and like that.

I named him Cricket,
on account of him singin' all the time.

And what happened to him?

I let him go.

You let him go?


I couldn't stand seein'
him locked up in that cage,

so I let him go.

So what happened?

I got beat by my daddy.

He said I ain't do
that bird no favors.

All I did was give
some snake his supper.

So you never saw him again?


He comes flying through my
dreams every once in a while,

flitting about and singing.

Is that why
you're humming all the time?


I know something
that's in a cage.

Who don't?

Don't you
walk away from me!


You do
what I tell you to do,

and you won't give me
no back talk.

All right.

All right,
all right, all right.

Well, looky here.

We got you
on the payroll now?

No, sir.

you're working for free?

All right.
That's what I like to hear.

- Yes, sir.
- Mm-hmm.

Ain't you supposed
to be in school, hmm?

Or you done graduated

I'm sick.

Sick and tired of school,
I bet, huh?

Ain't got no mama
setting down the rules for you.

You can just
make up your own rules, huh?

Well, listen.

I got me a number of
deals going on right now,

a few more
than I could handle properly.

I was wondering
if maybe a smart boy like you

was looking for a way to pick up
some extra spending money.

Yeah? Let me tell you
what I got cookin'.

You like animals?

Of course, you do.
What boy doesn't like animals, right?

But do you like wild animals?


'Cause I got me a wild animal
a couple of days back.

I got me a wild animal
like you wouldn't believe

right here on this property.

And I got plans for him.

I got some
big, big, big plans.

Only thing is,

he, uh...

he needs some
taking care of.

You know,
like some daily maintenance.

You following me, son?

- Yes, sir.
- All right.

Get in the jeep. I'll take you for a
ride, show you what I'm talking about.

But I'm supposed
to be sweeping.

Says who?

What, that worthless daddy
of yours, huh?

He ain't the boss.
He ain't nobody's boss.

I'm the boss.

So when I say, "Let's go,"

you say, "All right."

So, let's go.

All right.

Climb on up.

Here, let me take that for you.
Put it in the back.

Ah, don't worry about that.
That's just the meat.

It won't hurt you. Wipe your hands.

You ain't gonna believe
what I'm gonna show you.

No, sir.


No, sir.
I ain't gonna believe it.

Keep them eyes closed.
Don't you cheat.

We're almost there.

Don't peek. Don't peek.

All right.
Let's get you outta there.

All right.
You keeping them closed?

- Yes, sir.
- All right. Come on.

All right. Almost there.

Don't you be a cheater, now.

- Nobody likes a cheater.
- Yes, sir.

All right now.

Open up your eyes.
Tell me what you see.

It's a tiger!

Damn straight!

King of the jungle.

And he's all mine.

Wow! You own him?

That's right.

A fellow I know,
he owed me some money.

He paid me with a tiger.

That's how real men
do business.

In tigers.

That's right.
Real men do business in tigers.

That's right.

What do you want to do with him?

I'm weighing my options.

Maybe I was thinking
about putting him

right up there
in front of the Kentucky Star.

He'd bring in a whole bunch
of business to the motel.

Wouldn't you?

Or maybe I'll just kill him.

Maybe I'll skin him up,
make me a tiger coat.

Can you imagine me
in a big old tiger coat, huh?

Dang, I think I'd look good.


Anyway, I ain't completely
made up my mind yet.

But I'll tell you what...
he's a lot of work.

He has to eat meat
twice a day.

That's where you
come in.

I need you to come out here
and feed him for me,

and I'll give you two dollars
every time you do it.

How's that sound?

How do I get the meat
in the cage?

I'm gonna show you.

Looky here.

See these keys?

See this one little key
right here

with the red F on it? Huh?

Don't pay any attention
to these keys,

because these keys
open the big door,

and the big tiger will come out of
there and he'll eat you for sure.

You understand?

So you take this little
key with the red F,

just come out here
to this little door,

and you open up
this little lock here like that.

Yep. Ah.

Take out your meat.


And you throw it in one piece at a
time, just like this.


that's all there is to it.

What's the tiger's name?


He don't have a name.

You don't need to name something you're
throwing a piece of meat to, dummy.

Come over here.

I'll introduce you proper.
Come on.

All right, tiger.

See this kid here?

He's your new meal ticket,
not me. All right?

He's got the keys.
Take the keys.

He's got the keys, not me.

All right.

Now you two
know each other.

You all right, boy?

- Y-Y-Yes, sir.
- Yeah?

All right.

Well, don't you worry
about him.

You'll be all right.

He's stupid anyway.

All right.
Come here. Come here.

Now, this is
our business deal.

It don't concern nobody else.

All right.

I want you
to take this bag of meat,

I want you
to hide it somewhere.

And tomorrow, I'm gonna bring
you another bag of meat.

And in the meantime,

you're gonna keep
your mouth shut.

Understand, boy?

Is that you, Rob Horton?

Yes, ma'am.

Are you okay, Rob?

Yes, ma'am.

What you lookin' at,

She's the art teacher
from school.

Are you sure
you're okay, Rob?

He already done told you
he's okay.

Now, why don't you just take
your purple hair

and head on down the street,

Make sure you come
and see me when you're back.

Your fly's open.

I told you to get!

You remember what I told you.

- Yes, sir.
- All right.

Hey, leprosy boy!

Hey, here comes your girlfriend,
leprosy boy!

You gonna kiss her?

Kiss her. Kiss her.

Let's go see the tiger.

Tigers are
an endangered species.

It's up to us to save him.

We gotta be careful.
He peed all over Beauchamp.

Did he really?
That's wonderful!

He stunk terrible.

That just means he was spraying his
territory, marking what he owns.

Mr. Stupid doesn't realize
that the tiger really owns him.

Watch out
he don't attack you.

He won't.

Tigers only attack people
if they're desperately hungry.

This one ain't hungry.

How do you know?

Um, well,
he ain't skinny, is he?

He don't look starved.



I got the keys to the cage.

- How?
- Beauchamp.

He hired me to feed his tiger
and he gave me the keys.

All right.

Now, all we have to do is
open the locks and let him go.


Are you crazy?

It ain't safe.
It ain't safe for him.

My friend Willie May,
she had a bird and let it go,

and it just got ate up.


You're not making any sense.

This is a tiger,
not a bird.

And I don't know who Willie May
is, and I don't care.

You can't stop me
from letting this tiger go.

I'll do it without the keys.
I'll saw the locks off myself.



I can't wait for my dad
to come and get me.

When he gets here,

I'm going to make him come out
here and set this tiger free.

That's the first thing we'll do.


I'll get you out of here.
I promise.

I got you.

I got
good hold of you.

This is terrible.
Just terrible.

What is?

It's just not right.

What are you doing?
Are you crazy?

Now he can see the stars.

That's the Big Dipper.

- Where?
- Over here.

Do you see it?

Oh, right. I see it.

It kinda looks like
the tail of a big bear.

You're right. It is.

You know, the Big Dipper
is really part of Ursa Major.

That means the Great Bear.


I think he sees the bear too.

Yeah. He does.

You see?

That was
the right thing to do.


Did you see
that shooting star?

It was really fast.

If a tiger and a bear
got into a fight,

who do you think
would win?

The tiger.

if it was our tiger.

I gotta call my mother.

She's gonna be mad.

I'll go with you.


- Hey.
- Hey, there. Who's your friend?

This is Sistine.

meet Willie May.

She's the one I told you about,
who had a bird and let it go.

So what?

So nothin'.

So I had me a bird.

Why are you hanging around
here, trying to scare people?

I ain't trying to scare no one.

Willie May
works here.

That's right.

You know what? I know you.

You ain't got to
introduce yourself to me.

You angry.

You got a whole world of anger
inside of you.

I know anger when I meet it.
Been angry most of my life.

I'm not angry.

Yeah, all right.
You a angry liar, then.

Here you go.

Ain't that just like God,
throwing you two together?

This boy full of sorrow,
carrying it all low in his legs,

and you, you full of anger.

Got it snapping out of you
like lightning.

You a pair.
That's the truth.

How tall are you?


I'm gonna
get myself home.

But first,
let me give you some advice.

I already gave this boy some advice.
You ready for yours?

Ain't nobody
gonna rescue you.

You gotta
rescue yourself.

I think
she's a prophetess.

A what?

A prophetess.

They're painted all over
the Sistine ceiling.

They're women
who God speaks through.


Makes sense.

You out in the woods
with that girl again?

Yes, sir.

Look over here, Son.

Where'd this meat
come from?




He hardly pay me enough
to get by,

and now he's giving us
his rotten meat.

He thinks I ain't man enough
to put meat on my own table?

I'll teach him a lesson.

I ought to.

Making me work
for less than nothin'!

Giving us rotten meat!

Rotten meat!

Damn him!

Nice and hot,
just like you like it.

Thank you, darling.


It's chamomile.
It's your favorite.

It's delicious, Robert.


Then what?

- I've got somethin' for you.
- No.

Somethin' I made
especially for you.


I still don't know how you do that.
That is beautiful.

That's me,
and that's you.

I can see that, thank you very much.

I love it.


No, no.

Not right now.

Look, Rob.

I have never in my life seen
a prettier color of green.

Ain't it perfect?

Yes, ma'am.

It looks like
the original green.

The first one
that God ever thought up.

That's right.

The first-ever green.

Or maybe he made that
special green just for you.

- You think?
- Maybe.

You and me,
we see the world the same.


What are y'all
talking about?



Yep. And then...



Where your lady friend at?

But today's only a half day.


Why you giving me them
shifty-eyed looks?

Um, I made you something.

You made me something?
For real?


But you gotta put your hand out
and close your eyes.

I ain't.

You can look now.

I ain't gotta look.
I know what this is.

It's Cricket.

But you gotta look at it and tell
me, did I do it right.

I ain't gotta do nothing
but stay black and die.

Come on, look at it.

That's the bird.

That's the one.

Now you don't have to dream
about him at night no more.

That's right.

Boy, who taught you how to work
a piece of wood like this?

My mama.

She taught you good.

Yes, ma'am.

I know a wooden bird ain't
the same as a real one.

Yeah, that's right,
but... soothes
my heart just the same.

My dad says he ain't got no jobs
for me to do till this afternoon.

He said I could help
you out in the morning.


I'm sure I can find something
for you to help me with.

It's not my fault that you're
broke, damn idiot!

You came to me,
and now you owe me big.

Plus interest!

You better put on
your thinking cap,

or there's gonna be

All right.
All right.

I'm dead serious.


Where's the prophetess?

- Huh?
- Willie May. Where is she?

She's vacuuming.

My mother found out I was
wearing your clothes to school.

I'm in trouble.

I'm not supposed
to come out here anymore.

You know, you don't always
have to get into fights.

Sometimes if you don't hit them
back, they'll just leave you alone.

I want to get in fights.
I want to hit them back.

Sometimes I hit them first.
I don't even know why.


I'm going to go ask the prophetess
what we should do with the tiger.

No. You can't ask her
about the tiger.

Beauchamp said I ain't supposed to
tell nobody, especially not Willie May.

We need some answers.

Well, look at you two.

in your hand?


Did Rob make it?

He did.

It almost looks alive.

Is it like your bird
that you let go?

Just about exactly.


We need to ask you

Well, ask away.

If you knew about something
that was locked up in a cage,

something big and beautiful that was
locked away unfairly, for no good reason,

and you had the keys
to the cage,

would you let it go?

Lord God. What you two kids
got locked up in a cage?

It's a tiger.

A what?

A tiger.

- Lord Jesus.
- It's true!

All right.

Why don't you two take me to where
you got this tiger locked in a cage.

This way.

All right. Now, slow down.
I'm coming.

Give an old woman
a chance to catch up.

Where are you two going?

This ain't no place
for you two...

Lord God almighty.

Ain't no need to doubt
the fierceness of God

when he can make
something like that.

Who is the fool
that caged that tiger up?

He belongs
to Beauchamp.


If there's one person in the world
don't need to be owning no tiger,

that's Beauchamp.

Damn fool.

It's not right, is it?

Just like how you told Rob
about your bird

and how you had
to let it go.

A bird, that's one thing.

Tiger belonging to Beauchamp,
that's a whole nother.

Tell Rob that he should unlock
the cage and let him go!

I ain't.

What's this tiger supposed
to do once you let him go?

How's it gonna live?

Panthers live
in these woods.

They survive.

Used to.
Don't no more.

You're not saying
what you believe.

You're not talking
like a prophetess.

That's because
I ain't no prophetess.

I'm a person
speaking the truth.

The truth is there ain't nothing you
could do for that tiger except let him be.

But it's not right.

That ain't got
nothing to do with it.

right don't matter.

I can't wait
until my father comes to get me.

He knows what's right.

He'll come out here
and set this tiger free.

Your daddy ain't coming
to get you.

My father is coming
to get me.

No. He ain't.

He's a liar,
like your mom said.

You're the liar.
And I hate you.

Everybody at school
hates you too.

Even the teachers.

And I hope I never,
ever see you again.

She don't mean it.

She don't mean nothing she's
saying right now. Stop it.

Listen to me.

You think
I don't wanna see that tiger

just rise on up
out of that cage?



I'd love to see that tiger
come right on up outta there

and make a meal
out of Beauchamp.

Serve him right for keeping a
wild animal locked up like that

and putting you
in the middle of this.

Giving you the keys
to the cage.

Come on.

Come on up
out of here.

She's passed.


I got something
to tell you.

I'm not talking to you.

I come to tell you
about the tiger.

What about him?

I'm gonna let him go.

You won't do it.

Yes, I will.

I'm gonna do it,

I'm gonna do it
for you.

Oh, no.


Is that "Mr. Stupid"?

You out
getting your exercise?


Well, speak up, boy.

Yes, sir.

I know
what you've been doing.

You out chasing the girls,
aren't you? Huh?

He's a man after my own heart.

This your girlfriend?

No, sir.

What's your name,
little thing?


That's really pretty.

That's the kind of name

that's worth running
down the road after.

Isn't it? Huh?

I got you
some more goods.

I'm gonna leave them over
behind the office, all right?

And remember to leave your
worthless daddy out of this, right?

Yes, sir.

Mm-hmm. Good.

I've got some manly business
with your daddy over here, so...

you two,
you stay out of trouble.

- All right?
- Yes, sir.


So nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you too, Sissy.

What a bozo.

He may not be the
stupidest man in the world,

but I'll bet
he's related.

He's afraid, you know.

He's afraid
of the tiger.

That's why he's
making you feed him.

Yeah. You're right.

I'm sorry.

What I said
about your daddy earlier.

I don't want to talk about my father.
It doesn't matter.

What matters
is the tiger.

Come on.
Let's go set him free.

Hurry up!

Get the other lock!

Now open the door.

You know,
he ain't eaten nothing in two days.

- I'll bet he's pretty hungry.
- So what?

What if he eats us?

He won't.
We're his emancipators.


Get out of the way.

Go on.

You're free.

Get out!

Go on, get!


We see the world the same.

She's passed.

ain't gonna bring her back.

Get out of the cage!

Did you hear me?
Get out!

Get out!

Did you hear me? Get out!
Get out of the cage!

Get out!

He's leaving.

Go on! Be free.

Oh, my.


That was
the right thing to do.

Yes. It was
the right thing to do.

He's free! We did it!

He's free!
We did it!



Are you okay?

I don't know.
Something took my breath away.

Come on. Let's go.


Dear Jesus.

What did you do?

You're a liar.

- Come on.
- You're a liar.

You know I ain't lying.
I wasn't in there.

- No, you are.
- You saw where it was.

- I'm not afraid of you.
- Come on, Beauchamp.

I ain't gonna touch you.

Come on. Huh?

Come on. Come on!


No! No!

What did you do?

He was so beautiful.

He was magnificent.

He didn't deserve
to be locked up in a cage.

He deserved to be free.

What did you do?

What'd you do?

You killed him!

- I had to.
- That was my tiger! You killed him!

You killed my tiger!

It was mine!

I hate you!
You ain't the one I need!

I need her! I need her!

You say her name!

Say it!




I need her.

I need her too.

But we don't got her.

Neither one of us.

Hey, listen.

What we got, all we got

is each other.

Okay. We got to learn
to work with that.

I ain't gonna cry.

That's all right, buddy.

It's all right.
It's gonna be okay.

You're gonna get through this.
We both will.

You ain't gonna come pounding
on me now, is you?

No, ma'am.

Good shot.

He's in heaven now.

He'll be just fine.

You all right?

- He gonna be fine.
- Yeah.

You were right.

My father's not coming
to get me.

And it's okay.

I didn't mean
what I said about you before,

and I really,
really don't hate you.

Not at all.

You're my best friend.

That's all right.

Is this yours?

It's beautiful.

You can keep it.

If you want.

For years,
I wondered if we did the right thing

opening that cage.

But I knew we had to.

I can still hear
the sound of that gunshot

like it was yesterday.

I thought I would die of a broken
heart along with the tiger,

but I didn't.

In fact, that was the day I started
to look at life in a whole new way,

grateful for the things
I had

and at peace with
what would never come back.

We were all freed
from our cages that day.

We learned that there are
just some things

that you can't keep
locked away forever...

like memories

and heartache

and tigers.