Though it received incredible critical reviews upon its release, the film “Pig” starring Nicolas Cage has flown largely under the radar ever since. It did not earn a coveted Oscar nomination, it was not heavily marketed once it was placed on the Hulu streaming service and it simply has not expanded to reach general audiences.
Well, “Pig” deserves better treatment.
“Pig” may be the best film of 2021, looking back retrospectively, and it is a shame it has not earned recognition alongside other films from the year.
The film surrounds Robin Field (Cage), who is an isolated truffle forager living with a trusty pig by his side, helping search for valuable fungi. The film spirals in a number of directions, diving into Portland’s elite restaurant industry and its dark secrets.
“Pig” could have been a number of things: It could have been a vengeance-fueled thriller, a slow-moving, sorrowful drama or even an action film, with a few tweaks here and there.
Instead, the film becomes more than those genre conventions, finding a throughline between a thriller and drama to create a movie that constantly adapts and shifts scene after scene. By the end, you realize this film wasn’t focusing on genre, but instead on its characters, ultimately making the emotional core all the richer and more heart-filled.
Cage’s reputation as an actor has taken a bit of a dive in the last decade, due to poor box office performances that pushed him into the video on-demand world, but “Pig” shows his skill. Though he is an actor known for his maniacal, crazy performances, Cage gives an unbelievable performance in this subdued role. He brings such a heart and a groundedness to the character, delivering emotional moments in heartbreakingly beautiful fashion. The primary reason this film works so well is because of Cage’s performance. With this film’s success and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” releasing next week, perhaps a resurgence is on the horizon for Cage’s career. I certainly hope it is — he is a brilliant actor.
Alex Wolff, who plays Cage’s colleague Amir, is also brilliant in “Pig.” They have fantastic chemistry throughout the film, which makes the dramatic moments feel all the more realistic and all the more effective. Wolff is certainly a young actor to watch out for.
However, you cannot talk about this film without mentioning the writing and direction of first-time director Michael Sarnoski. “Pig” is not a typical movie, and it could’ve leaned into its more bizarre aspects and become almost a parody of itself — but instead Sarnoski intelligently kept this film grounded, with a true sense of heart at the center. The film takes time to develop, but once it starts rolling, the film plays so smoothly. There are so many incredible moments and brilliantly written dialogue sequences, and that all starts with the characters. Though it’s only a 90-minute film, Sarnoski’s brilliant writing fleshes out all its characters, which combined with fantastic performances, makes them feel all the more real. Directorially, his use of long takes throughout the film also adds to this realism, as they make the audience feel like they are just a bystander watching this all take place. I am excited to see what Sarnoski does next, as this is an incredibly impressive feature-film debut.
In the end, “Pig” is an emotionally rich, incredibly well-written film that has an outstanding lead performance from Cage. It earns a very strong recommendation. Please spread the word on this film, as this may just be the best from last year.