Pig ★★★★½

OH wow, OK. I've not been keeping up with my Letterboxd feed, so feel very disconnected from what 2021 films are blowing up. But Pig has cracked through a bit—it got on my radar. Picked it up over the weekend (thank you Black Friday deals) and hot damn, it kind of blew me away.

Rob is backwoods. Isolated. Only favors the company of his truffle-hunting pig. Truffles: Rare, expensive, a shadowy business where haute cuisine collides with the societal underbelly. And despite Rob's desire to be separate from all of that, all of that collides with him when his pig gets stolen. Thus he has return to the big city—his origins—to track his pig down. The truffle business is only so big, after all, and he knows where to rut around.

Pig reminds me a lot of John Wick, absent the violence. "Wait, there's more to John Wick than violence?" you ask. Yes, yes there is. Both Wick and Rob are men who have run from their past, finding solace in animals rather than other people. Both men have to reconfront that past when outside forces impose themselves on those animals. Unlike Wick, Rob's past is not violent, so he moves through his old world without guns or bloodshed (other than his own). The shadowy underground both men have to navigate is unnerved by their respective appearance, although the source of that is different: Wick spawns fear, Rob spawns respect. Of course, fear is its own kind of respect, so even then the difference is that of spectacle.

The biggest difference between the two films, then, is that Pig is as much about a kid (well, twenty-something) named Amir. Rob has been Amir's truffle supplier, so it's in his personal interest to aid Rob in his quest. Amir is relatively small potatoes in the truffle distribution world, but he's trying to prove himself—to work his way into being his father's equal. And as the film unfolds we see this father/son relationship become increasingly important, not just to Rob's understanding of the new world he finds himself in, but to our emotional connection to the characters and Pig's overall tone. It's an intoxicating mixture as Pig's hour-and-a-half fly by. The climatic scene is simply a meal, yet it simmers with tension.

Perhaps Pig's greatest asset is in how little it explains. Most of us are very unfamiliar with truffle hunting and its distribution system (and I would be hesitant to assume this is a realistic look at it without a bit of research), but the script doesn't sit us down and outline it for us; it just throws us into the fray, forcing us to spot the little details and put them together ourselves. This refusal to catch us up to speed puts us, in a way, in Amir's shoes: It's obvious he's very unfamiliar with this world outside his own niche, so as he learns, so do we. It's scriptwriting that assumes the viewer can follow the heart of the narrative without some kind of Truffle Foraging 101 crash course. That to focus on the process so intimate to Rob is to distract from the story. That, even if we assume some of the more extreme elements have the gleam of fantasy, we'll see the dynamics that make Pig's context tick.

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