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The Tiger Rising Film Ending Explained

The Tiger Rising ends with Rob and Sistine releasing a tiger, leading to its tragic death. This event helps Rob and his father confront their grief and begin healing.

“The Tiger Rising” is a touching film about a boy named Rob dealing with the loss of his mother. The story explores themes of grief, emotional suppression, and the quest for freedom. The film’s ending is both dramatic and poignant, leaving a lasting impact on its viewers.

The Release of the Tiger

Rob Horton, a 12-year-old boy, lives in a Florida motel with his father. He struggles with the recent death of his mother, Caroline, and develops a strange rash on his legs. This rash symbolizes his suppressed grief. Rob discovers a caged tiger in the woods near the motel, owned by Beauchamp, the motel owner. Rob forms an emotional bond with the tiger, which distracts him from his grief.

Rob befriends Sistine Bailey, a new girl in town dealing with her parents’ separation. Sistine believes the tiger symbolizes their need for emotional liberation. Together, they plan to release the tiger. They manage to free the tiger, but it quickly becomes a threat to Beauchamp. Rob’s father shoots the tiger to protect his boss, shocking and horrifying both Rob and Sistine.

Rob’s Emotional Release

The tiger’s death triggers an intense emotional release for Rob. He lashes out at his father, expressing his pent-up anger and grief. This confrontation forces Rob’s father to confront his own suppressed emotions about his wife’s death. The film suggests that the tiger’s death serves as a catalyst for both Rob and his father to release their bottled-up emotions. Rob’s rash disappears, symbolizing his emotional release. Willie May, a kindly maid at the motel, explains that the rash was a physical manifestation of his repressed feelings (The Review Geek).

The Funeral and Resolution

Rob insists on giving the tiger a proper burial. During the funeral, Sistine recites a part of William Blake’s poem “The Tiger”, adding a layer of literary symbolism to the narrative. This moment serves as a turning point for Rob and his father, allowing them to openly grieve for Caroline and begin the healing process. The film ends on a hopeful note, with Rob looking forward to attending school with Sistine, suggesting that he has found a way to cope with his loss and move forward (Wikipedia).

Themes in The Tiger Rising

Grief and Emotional Suppression

Grief and emotional suppression are central themes in “The Tiger Rising”. Rob’s rash represents his suppressed grief, and its disappearance signifies his emotional release. The film highlights the importance of expressing emotions for healing.

Freedom and Liberation

The tiger symbolizes freedom and liberation. Its captivity mirrors the emotional cages that Rob and Sistine find themselves in. By setting the tiger free, the children attempt to break free from their own emotional constraints. However, the tragic outcome of the tiger’s release highlights the sophisticatedities and consequences of seeking liberation without fully understanding the risks involved.

Friendship and Support

The bond between Rob and Sistine is another key element of the film. Their friendship provides them with the support and understanding they need to navigate their respective losses. Through their shared experiences, they learn the value of empathy and the importance of having someone to confide in during difficult times.

Critical Reception

“The Tiger Rising” received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 17% approval rating based on 18 reviews, with an average rating of 4.2/10. Metacritic assigned the film a score of 33 out of 100 based on 6 critics, indicating “generally unfavorable reviews” (Wikipedia).

Critics have pointed out several shortcomings in the film. Nick Schager of Variety criticized the film for its lack of subtlety and overly simplistic storytelling, noting that it “spells out its entire plot and overarching theme from the get-go” (Variety). Adam Vaughn of Film Festival Today acknowledged the film’s heartfelt and entertaining aspects but noted its reliance on clichéd dialogue and overused plot beats (Film Festival Today).


“The Tiger Rising” tackles sophisticated themes of grief, emotional suppression, and the quest for freedom through the lens of a children’s story. While it has its shortcomings in terms of storytelling and originality, it offers a poignant exploration of the emotional struggles faced by its young protagonists. The film’s ending, marked by the release and subsequent death of the tiger, serves as a powerful metaphor for the characters’ emotional liberation and the beginning of their healing journey.

Despite its mixed critical reception, “The Tiger Rising” provides valuable lessons on the importance of expressing emotions and the healing power of friendship. It may not appeal to all audiences, but it holds particular significance for its preteen target demographic, offering a heartfelt narrative that resonates with the challenges of growing up and dealing with loss.


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