Pig (dir. Michael Sarnoski, 2021) – When his foraging pig is kidnapped, Robin Feld returns from the wilderness to the city in search for answers that may lie in his past.
It is difficult to review Pig for there is no better way to enjoy it than going in blind. Implying vengeance in the making, Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut soon subverts expectations of its initial premise, shifting gear from an ostensible thriller to a meditative character study with depth and compassion.
The story begins with the quiet solitary life of Rob (Nicolas Cage), who lives in the far wilderness with a truffle-hunting pig. We begin to wonder who he once was and what had driven him into isolation, especially when a young man Amir (Alexx Wolf) shows up at his door in contrastingly gaudy fashion.
Rob waits in stony silence as he trades Amir his truffles for necessities, impatient for the trader to leave and his comforting quietude to return. But what he wants doesn’t last. One single bad night leaves him bloodied and distraught, when strangers break into his home and snatch his pig. Springing back into the city that he had left for ten years, he ropes in a reluctant Amir in search of his only companion.
Of histrionic mobsters and secret passages, there is an air of compelling unreality to the Portland they arrive at. But it is because of which that the reality of more grounded moments sinks in with greater impact.
Cage plays an intriguing character, whose wrath at his loss stems from something deeper. As Rob reveals his surprising former life, all for a clue to the nameless creature’s whereabouts, so does he confront the void that has returned in the absence of the only thing he came to care for.
At one point, Rob asserts, we don’t get a lot of things to really care about. His words paint a vivid picture of the life-altering loss that comes with every misguided choice. In his bare and honest truth, he also reveals his own fork in the road that left him a buried trauma, his reason for choosing to disconnect before.
His resentment has lain suppressed hitherto and now explodes not into violence, but a bolt of resolve. There is no bloody outburst in wait for the man, whose mission is not about vendetta, as we might have been led to believe at first.
Instead, it becomes a deeply moving personal journey that is for Rob as much as it is for Amir, the latter appearing to be a shadow of Rob’s old self. Both share more in common than they each acknowledge. They choose to live an illusion of contentment, yet are merely running away from the harder realities of their loss in different ways.
Tightly wound into a taut 90-minuter, Pig is introspective but never sluggish. The events play out unexpectedly yet naturally, building up to an evocative finale of self-realisation and turning in a beautifully understated work of art.
Pig defies expectations that its premise and cast might build, delivering a thought-provoking and evocative picture of loss.
Pig is now showing at The Projector Singapore.