Well… this was a surprise! Although filmed in late 2019, Pig launched in summer 2021 and marks the directorial debut for Michael Sarnoski.
Although an unusual film, it shows Nic Cage at his very best and over its 90 minutes (surprisingly) develops into a powerful film about grief and loss.
Okay, we’re going to approach this review in a different way to normal. We’ll try not to dish out too many spoilers. It’s best to go into Pig (as we did) not knowing too much.
But an overview of the plot is as follows. Robin Feld (Cage) is a reclusive truffle forager living in a cabin in Oregon’s forests.
He hunts for truffles with his prized foraging pig. And he sells the truffles to Amir (Alex Wolff providing a strong performance), a young, inexperienced, but ambitious restaurant supplier.
However, one day the pig is taken by unknown assailants and Feld is knocked out. A determined Feld (bearded, bloodied, and bedraggled) then heads into society to get his pig back.
Now, if you think it then plays out in John Wick (2014) style with chaos and screaming… you’re very much mistaken!
As Cage delivers the type of fantastic performance along the lines of Leaving Las Vegas (1995), in which he’s exceptional (and rightly won an Oscar).
Some film fans hold the belief he’s a terrible actor. And he has been in some awful films (and been bad in them). But here’s proof that, when he’s on it, Cage is one hell of an actor.
What plays out in Pig are a series of developments about Feld.
As first, we know little about him. But as his mission unfolds, the narrative unveils the reasons behind Feld’s reclusive ways.
It emerges he was a successful chef. And he begins reconnecting with former colleagues and friends, deconstructing interactions with a mixture of intellect and wisdom.
These encounters from Feld’s former life are what make the film. Such as when he visits his former home.
It’s during these encounters we learn he’s grieving deeply. Not so much for the missing pig, but on a grander scale of a previous relationship.
And in endeavouring to find his pig, he’s actually involved in a far more important journey of understanding.
Whilst he’s doing his thing, Amir’s love for classical music punctuates scenes.
There’s some subtle, excellent use of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). We’re going to include it here, as it’s brilliant.
Classical music plays throughout the film, with Amir having listening to the same radio station in his car. That’s to Feld’s annoyance.
The two even have a little battle of turning the radio on and off between bouts of the radio channel’s pompous presenter rambling.
And it’s such little moments that define Pig. Subtle gestures, dark humour, a sense of stricken and messy grace.
Feld spends the entire film splattered in blood, dishevelled, and in pain (mental and physical).
Yet he’s nothing but a calming, enlightening presence for those around him.
As Pig develops it only becomes more compelling. Over the first 50 minutes you take in the developments and concern about the missing animal.
But in its closing 40 minutes we became aware of just how moving it is.
It builds to an impressive closing segment that’s very powerful, with Alan Arkin (the film’s “antagonist”—if you will) finding some unity with Feld.
There’s no violence or intimidation from Feld. He simply uses his compassion and intelligence to get the answers he wants.
All the while, this is set to the backdrop of the beautiful autumnal setting and cinematography that exemplifies Pig’s sense of meditative melancholia.
It’s an unusual film. Odd, if you will. But we see nothing wrong with being innovative.
Or about tackling grief in such a way. The director’s father died when he was young and people seek solace in different ways and express their handling of it as they need to.
Pig’s sense of slow burning melancholia builds impressively towards a pretty magnificent final act. And we can only recommend you give this a watch.
Although filmed in late 2019, the subsequent pandemic (as with many other films) put Pig’s schedule into disarray.
It finally launched in July 2021 with a cinema release, plus it’s immediately become available on streaming services. Again, like how many other films approach it these days.
The film’s budget was apparently very low, although we couldn’t find how much this was. However, it made back $3.5 million at the box office. That’s good to see!
The shoot took 20 days in September 2019 and was filmed in Portland, Oregon.
Frankly, watching the film, it makes us want to visit as there’s a lot of gorgeous autumnal happenings going on.
But the budget was so low a trained pig couldn’t be hired, so the one in the film was often a bit unruly. And this one (Brandy) bit Cage several times.
Clearly worth it! As Pig has seen an excellent critical reception on top of its monetary gain, with many glowing reviews (including many 5/5s).