Pig (2021)

Michael Sarnoski | 1hr 32min

Pig makes for a thoughtful, delectable debut for director Michael Sarnoski, but it would be wrong to not attribute a good portion of its success to Nicolas Cage’s patient, deadly serious performance of a man on a quest to recover his stolen truffle-hunting pig. For all of the jokes made about his overwrought line deliveries over his long career, it would be hard for anyone to pin down the standard “Nicolas Cage” character, but even with that in mind it is surprising that his portrayal of reclusive ex-chef Rob is so remarkably contained. When he speaks, his voice comes out in a soft, growling timbre, though all it really takes is his imposing screen presence and the disillusionment in his weary eyes to make visible the quiet pain of the character.


Rob’s relationship with his pig is less that of an owner and their pet, and more of a symbiotic companionship. We spend time getting used to their routine of sniffing out truffles, selling them off, and cooking up meals, and while Sarnoski relishes the wholesome beauty of it all through this largely dialogue-free opening, there is also a sadness hanging in the air. It is when Rob ventures back into the folds of Portland’s foodie culture which he dominated over a decade ago that, bit by bit, we discover more about his past, and any sense that this might be a John Wick-style quest for vengeance goes out the window. What Sarnoski delivers instead is a journey of grief, bargaining, and acceptance, in which his lost pig signifies something far more delicately personal than we might have assumed.
 
It is this deep sensitivity that Rob pours into his cooking, and it is through gentle montages that Sarnoski soaks in the artistry of the act. If John Wick’s superpower is his skill with weaponry and hand-to-hand combat, then Rob’s is the ability to evoke memories and emotions so powerful that he can move hearts with a single dish. This may seem an overly sentimental premise, but both Sarnoski and Cage’s dedication to the absolute honesty of the piece sells every tender minute of it.

The purity of Rob’s craft is felt even more deeply by its contrast to the foodie culture we witness elsewhere, in which high-end fine dining restaurants are stripped of their authenticity, and are founded on the corrupt exploits of dimly lit, underground crime rings. Sarnoski is just as in love with the sensual details of this world as he is in the emotional growth of his characters, and it his through his patience in building both from the ground up that Pig becomes a powerfully moving ode to the healing act of creation itself.

Pig is currently available to rent or buy on iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.

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