Aronne Ibarra’s review published on Letterboxd:
We don't get a lot of things to really care about, and lucky me was able to find one of those rare films that are actually worth caring about. Every year, there's a release that flies under my radar only to blow me away after I see it. This year, it was Pig, Michael Sarnoski's melancholy, surprisingly existential, and genre-subverting feature debut.
The world we live in is driven by fleeting success: financial wealth, fast cars, expensive clothes, a reputation, a name. People do not know where or who to latch onto even though it's in front of them all of this time. Today's human-to-human relationships always finds itself running back to money. Pig questions the things we put value into in this brief life of ours and of others. Though it may be unknown or at least subconscious for most, it is of nature that a person seeks a deeper meaning in his or her actions, so that he or she will, for years and years to come, remember and smile back in contentment. So it is incredibly important for us to know the things we should care about, the things that when everything superficial is stripped away and we are our most bare, will continue to matter within and we feel comfortable naked.
A depressed horse once wrote, "In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make." This quote which has not escaped my mind since ties in so perfectly with Pig. These human, environmental, spiritual connections are things no one can take away from us, things we take with us to death: dreams, loves, memories. These are what keeps us going. These are everything. Businesses close down, cars break down, clothes get torn, and empires fall. But the connections that we make, the dreams we chase, and the love we cherish will only burn on brighter in time. A pig is never just a pig.
Pig is full of welcome surprises. With its premise of a stolen pig and a solitary soul seemingly out for vengeance, everyone expected a bloody John Wick-type film. However, everyone who's seen Pig will tell you there are no guns in it and no revenge whatsoever. This is an anti-revenge subversion pulled off excellently, reminding us of the futility of getting even and breaking connections in doing so. There is also no clear-cut antagonist character, for the only villain in this film is the modern capitalist ideology which robs us of our truthfulness to ourselves. Every main character is as broken internally as each other, and this kind of empathetic look at people is what makes Pig an honest breath of fresh air. I believe more films like this should be made, and I'm sure there are already many out there like it waiting for the mainstream to treasure them.
No one should ever doubt the brilliance of Nicolas Cage. The man is legitimately one of the best actors of our generation. Known for his over-the-top, expressive, physical style of acting, Cage has made a living off of shouting and doing absurd stuff in a lot of his films. And I am thrilled to report that Pig marks Cage's best performance in years. His signature outbursts are still here--in fact, I was waiting for them--but for most of the time, he is silent and hurt. A deep sense of loss and pain is reflected in his eyes, his movement, and his very intention, and you feel it. This performance will stick with me for some time and it deserves every ounce of love it gets, but I won't be surprised if Cage gets snubbed this year in favor of bigger, louder films.
If Nicolas Cage was the heart and soul of Pig, then director Michael Sarnoski was its mastermind. For a man directing his first feature, what maturity he has. Every moment felt like it had to be there and every scene and shot were crafted and arranged nicely. The pacing is almost perfect and the acts, split into three like appetizer, main course, and dessert (a sweet stylistic choice which plays with Cage's character), only kept getting better and kept pulling me into its story. By the end I enjoyed a hearty meal; my compliments to the chef! The film looks and sounds great (reminiscent of last year's First Cow in its rustic visuals and texture, and both even touch upon the same themes), the music and the soundtrack work together really well, and more outstanding performances from Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin.
Aside from a few instances of plot points not adding much to the overall development of the characters and the story (the underground fight ring among a few more) and rather expository moments unusual for its mostly subtle execution, Pig is a really, really good film. This is a film that will shock you in ways you wouldn't expect, make you reevaluate your life, and help you appreciate what you have. Featuring commendable directorial choices and Nic Cage's best acting in a long time, Pig is one of the best films of the year and an automatic recommendation. No tears are flowing out of my eyes right now but I'm crying on the inside, and I sincerely hope you feel the same when you watch Pig. Cinema right here. Thank you all for reading and have a great day!