Perhaps it’s a result of where I currently am in my life at this moment, but “Pig” kicked me in the gut with its haunting exploration of isolation and loss. This film warms your heart while proceeding to rip it right out of your chest. The somber tone is emotionally devastating, and I felt this film in every atom of my being.
Robin (Nicolas Cage) is a former chef turned recluse who lives alone in a rustic cabin in the Oregon wilderness with his only companion – a truffle foraging pig. He begins supplying his discovered delicacies to Amir (Alex Wolff), who in turn resells them at a profit to the swankiest restaurants in Portland. After a surprise late night attack and pignapping, Robin is distraught without his porcine friend and is desperate to bring her back home where she belongs. Suspecting that his pig was taken by someone in the culinary world, Robin asks Amir to drive him into the city to search for the culprits at some of Portland’s underground cuisine hotspots.
This is Cage’s movie through and through. His performance is stellar, and it is one of the best of his career. His subtle, nuanced performance is a reminder why he’s one of the modern greats. While he hasn’t always been able to tone it down, and nobody has ever accused him of making the most prudent choices when it comes to his filmography, Cage is an extraordinarily talented weirdo whom you can always count on to take interesting roles. The actor has had a lot of rough patches in his life, and he portrays Robin with an unbearable sense of suffering and sadness that feels genuine. Not many actors could carry a film like this in the way that Cage does.
It’s an accomplishment behind the camera as well, with first-time feature film director Michael Sarnoski setting the bar high for his future endeavors. Sarnoski co-wrote the film with Vanessa Block, and while they could’ve easily (and lazily) taken the route of a dumbed-down revenge thriller, the pair fashioned a quiet meditative study on the death of creativity, the bittersweet agony of memory and grief, and the need for connection, be it human or animal.
The most complex parts of the film arrive in the form of little details that are never explained. They can be found in the way Robin positions his body when confronting ghosts from his past, or in the beauty of a plate of food, or in Amir’s brief mention of a childhood experience he desperately wishes he’d had. The audience is left to draw their own conclusions based on their personal worldview and life experiences. This in turn makes for an intimate viewing experience.
Grief is healed only by time and eventual acceptance, but letting go still takes a part of your soul that you’ll never get back. The attachments we form in life are what shape us and make us whole, and “Pig” offers a poignant reflection on just how fragile those relationships actually are. This is a moving, meaningful, and profound film.