“We don't get a lot of things to really care about.”

Pig is certainly one of the year’s best, brimming with heart, compassion, humor, and beauty. Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona, National Treasure, Color Out of Space) has featured in a run of well received independent films over the last few years, following a critical reappraisal of his talents as an actor in Panos Cosmatos’ bloody, cosmic revenge thriller, Mandy. Pig felt like it might reflect Mandy in many ways upon reading the initial premise, as Rob (Cage) is confronted with the theft of his foraging pig and led into the city of Portland, Oregon to track it down. Rob is accompanied by Amir, portrayed by Alex Wolff (Hereditary, Old) as a young, inexperienced restaurant supplier who buys the truffles foraged by the titular pig. The logline, coupled with his string of recent, bloody affairs in filmmaking led me to believe Pig would be another lovably over-the-top, gorefest. What I got instead was a compelling drama about empathy for our fellow man, coping with loss, and love’s role as a powerful motivator for our actions.

For a film with a premise which sounds utterly absurd, Pig is played almost completely straight. There is a hint of self-awareness during some of the lighter moments, and the film offers many laughs which seem intended & appropriate for the direction of the scenes in which they land, but it isn’t winking at the audience. Pig demands that the viewer feel as serious, as desperate, about retrieving the pig as Rob. You’re sold a movie about one of America’s most notoriously unhinged, over-the-top performers tracking down his lost pig and it sounds like a surreal comedy; this metatextual subversion of expectations works in favor of the film for those who are willing to go along with what it is rather than what they were expecting.

I am often critical of films in which the emotional beats lean far into melodrama. Pig takes an alternate route with sobering, quiet moments of grief which trade out your typical Hollywood sentimentality for a sincere vulnerability you rarely see in a film of this kind. Cage, in spite of all the overacting he’s done throughout his career, is so raw, sympathetic, and sensitive in the role. It is rightfully being hailed by many as one of his best performances. Michael Sarnoski directs the hell out of his first feature, with captivating performances and beautiful scenery making for one of the most engaging films of the year thus far. The difference in tone and visual language conveyed between the rustic, beautiful setting of Rob’s cabin compared to the muted landscape of the city left me wanting to pack my bags and head out into the woods.

Pig exceeded expectations in many ways, it is not everyday that a film in which Nicolas Cage utters the line “I do not fuck my pig” is likewise able to make my eyes water as the credits roll.

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