Pig (2021)

"I remember every meal I ever cooked. I remember every person I ever served.""I remember every meal I ever cooked. I remember every person I ever served."

“I remember every meal I ever cooked. I remember every person I ever served.”

Pig is an unusual film; one I certainly didn’t see coming nor thought I’d connect with on a deep emotional level. It’s not unusual in a bad way, just the opposite, in fact, the journey, co-written by Michael Sarnoski, who also directed this quiet flawed masterpiece is the most important element among a plethora of others in his film. When viewing the trailer for the first time, the results are vastly different than the cut of the film in how the marketing campaign was delivered to audiences. From the looks of it, Pig has the appearance of a John Wick, but I was pleasantly surprised to be 100% wrong about how the story would play out. 

Pig is far removed from a John Wick esque type action revenge film. Instead, it’s a story about love and loss, about the special connection we have as humans with domesticated four-legged friends we call family. In this case, it’s a truffle pig with owner Rob (Nicholas Cage) who lives reclusively in the woods of Portland Oregon. When his Pig is stolen from him one night and Rob is left for dead, he goes on a mission to get his pig back at any cost with the help of Amir (Alex Wolff) whom Rob sells the truffles too. 


That connection between man and animal is formed immediately during part one, named after a food dish and follows throughout the story in Rob and Amir’s quest for the Pig. Waves of emotion from Nic Cage resonate through his performance which is the best performance from him in many years. Cage is having himself quite a year – along with Pig, he is the host of a limited series documentary on Netflix The History of Swear Words Willy’s Wonderland. The quiet fury resonates off Rob which makes him intimidate without a lick of violence used on those that get in his way of reuniting with the animal closet to his heart. Rob has been off the grid for 15 years since the death of his wife but his name, his actual name, Robin Feld is still respected around town albeit in whispers.

Nic Cage brings a rawness and vulnerability to his subtle realistic portrayal of Robin. Are we on the on the precipice of a Nic Cagessaince? It’s happened with Keanu and Matthew McConaughey.

Robin was a chef and a damn good one at that because he cared about his craft and about serving the best dish possible leaving the customer happier when they walked in for their meal. He remembers every meal he ever cooked and every customer that ate his food. That’s the anchor for this beautiful story when Robin comes face to face with the man behind his pig’s theft. He cooks the meal that he made Darius (Adam Arkin) and his wife, Amir’s parents, years prior that cemented their marriage.

As a story, Pig finds a way to defy expectations and pull on the heartstrings. Its full of emotion and once you think the story is going to zig, it zags and vice versa leaving us in a fog for days just appreciating this films beauty. I knew instantly this film would speak to me on an emotional level when the only action in the entire 92-minute runtime lasted 5 of those minutes. 

Thematically, Pig is about companionship – with animals and humans respectively. Amir doesn’t have a great relationship with his father Darius (who is a typical asshole father trope) and instead, Rob is a father figure to him – showing more compassion than Amir has probably ever known. Even when were alone, cut off from the world, self-inflicted or otherwise, an animal is the perfect companion to cure loneliness. Man’s best friend still has 4 legs but oinks, rolls around in the dirt and sniffs delicacies out from the earth instead of wagging a tail and barking at all hours of the day and night. There’s also a point in Pig when Robin preaches about the importance of having a dream and chasing that dream. For me, it’s easily the best scene because of how settling for less than what you may deserve or playing it safe, not taking any risks is deconstructed.

In a way, Robin Feld is exactly like John Wick – it’s hard not compare the two. Robin is quiet, only speaking when he has something to say and is a man of conviction. The theft of the pig is a traumatic enough event to instantly get behind his search for his friend. The only difference is the violence and assassin profession. Just like with Chef the food Is equally as important to the narrative as the characters journey is. With each new part in the story, a new dish is ready to be made with metaphors created to give meaning to that particular part of the story. Along the journey when new information is learned about the stolen pig, the narrative becomes richer. 


If the expectation was to see a big action set piece than curb that expectation at the door, there is none of that to be found, in fact, the theater I was in when viewing probably my favorite film of the year (so far), I noticed two people who probably had the expectation of a shoot-em-up mindless action film but with Nic Cage instead of Keanu Reeves. I couldn’t tell if they were disappointed that Pig was nothing that they hoped it would be or if they even liked it.

There’s a slow burn and then there’s Pig. To say this film is paced slower than normal is an understatement. Every scene within Pig is almost too lived in when at times the scene should be finished and were ready to move on to the next portion, another 5-10 minutes is added on. It’s not the worst thing in the world to live in the emotional distress this narrative causes but for a film that is only 92 minutes long, the pacing could have been a bit quicker. That’s only one of the two criticisms I have about this film, the other being the lack of development outside of Robin and Amir. In lieu of that, Darius is given one of the big emotional moments of the film, in finding himself he breaks Robin’s heart. That moment does feel anticlimactic in a way since we were on this journey with Robin and the story ends the way it does but the journey itself is still an odyssey – one needed to be seen and told. Pig is easily one of the best films of the year.

I can’t recommend Pig enough. See it for one of the best Nic Cage performances ever but, within it, the cinematography by Patrick Scola which creates a small, contained world full of sadness and despair that should be equally marveled at. Inside that despair, hope never fades from Robin’s spirit. Pig is a film that stays with you well after seeing it, the themes, the music, and performances all resonate beyond the 92 minute runtime.

Pig is written by Vanessa Block & Michael Sarnoski, directed by Michael Sarnoski is Rated R and has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Pig was released on July 16, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 32 minutes. Pig can be seen currently in theaters.  4.5 out of 5.

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