When you first think ‘Nicolas Cage film’, you will probably imagine one of the many completely bonkers, so-bad-it’s-good or just-plain-bad films that define his iconic 40-year-long career; but Nic Cage in Michael Sarnoski’s Pig is something else entirely. He has traded in his usual eccentric, shouty character for a pensive man of few words. There is a beauty in this performance that is completely outwith what is normally expected of him, and it’s wonderful.
Cage takes on the role of Rob, a truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregon wilderness with his beloved prized pig. They live a life of peace and comfortable mundanity, existing together in harmony. When that pig is stolen, however, Rob must face his past to find her.
Along for the ride is Amir, Rob’s douchey, yellow-Camaro-driving truffle buyer. Despite being reluctant to help, Amir’s time with Rob helps him start to heal old wounds and his big-shot façade slowly drops, revealing a sad, damaged boy. Alex Wolff plays Amir with a subtleness and depth expected of a far more veteran actor. Since his role in 2018’s Hereditary, Wolff’s career has been on an upward trend, and we will undoubtedly be seeing a lot more of him.
Since the trailer first came out, many people have compared Pig to John Wick. This is an understandable comparison, but beyond the concept of a man trying to recover his stolen pet, the films couldn’t be more dissimilar. Where John Wick is brutal and, at times, cold, Pig is warm and full of heart. Expertly choreographed fight scenes are swapped for mesmerising cooking sequences set to gentle music. To say that Pig is anything like John Wick is a disservice to both films; they each have their own special qualities.
Pig is Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut, and what a debut it is. With only 20 days to shoot, and a budget so tight they couldn’t even hire a trained pig, Sarnoski has somehow managed to craft one of the best films of the year. There is a gentleness and attention to detail in his work that can be seen in the work of other talented filmmakers such a Kelly Reichardt and Kogonada.
Critics have praised Cage for his performance, and the film for its direction and exploration of themes. Pig is about more than just a man and his porcine pal: it’s a thoughtful film that explores the relationship between food, love, and memories. Every meal discussed holds a significance to one of the characters and it highlights how often food marks important moments in our lives.
The film leaves you with a feeling of melancholy and a need to question what is important in your life. It’s as Rob says: “We don’t get a lot of things to really care about.”
This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival opened with Pig. The film is available to watch in selected theatres across the UK from August 20th.
Featured image credit: Altitude