★★★★★ - STUFF
- Why Nicolas Cage's answer to John Wick is also a stone-cold poetic delight -
A few months back, I wrote that Gunda, a wordless, black and white documentary about six months in the life of a pig, was the very best film I had seen so far in 2021.
So imagine my delight, that not only have I found a film I enjoyed even more than Gunda, but that it is called, with unimprovable brevity and precision, Pig.
Debutant feature director Michael Sarnoski sets his tale in backwoods Oregon, maybe an hour or so from the bright lights and hipsters of Portland. Robin lives alone in these woods. Although he was once a renowned chef, to pay whatever bills he has these days, Robin collects prized black truffles from the roots of the Douglas Firs that surround his home. He is aided in this endeavour by the genius snout of the only creature that Robin still trusts enough to love, his pig, who remains nameless.
Late one night, after his truffle dealer has visited, Robin wakes to find strangers in his cabin. They beat him unconscious and steal his pig.
Bereft and heartbroken, Robin sets out to the city – a place he loathes and perhaps fears – to confront the men he believes are the thieves.
According to the trailer, what follows is a John Wick-style actioner, with Nicolas Cage – for it is he who plays Robin – falling upon the pig-nappers with furious vengeance. And if Pig had become a John Wick or a Taken (err, Bacon?) style revenge flick, then I would have been a happy man. In fact, if Hollywood wants to employ Cage to re-do everything that Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson have made in the last decade, then put me down for a season ticket.
But, joyously, Pig becomes something far more – and less – than the marketing is hinting at. Like some Oregonian Orpheus, Robin descends into the bowels of Portland to recover his companion. Which is as fine a metaphor for finally confronting old pain and loss as you, or I, will ever need.
Pig is a gorgeous piece of whimsy. Like Wick, it exists in a parallel world that is nearly, but not quite our own. And although it follows the superficial structure of an action film, by the time Robin meets and confronts the villain of the story, it is only to acknowledge that the two men are practically mirrors of each other, each holding the key to the other's peace.
Adam Arkin (Sons of Anarchy and son of Alan) and Alex Wolff (Hereditary) are both fine in support, but Pig belongs to Cage. Like a bear driven out of his cave, Cage dominates every pixel of this film with a shaggy intensity of purpose that I can't imagine any other actor quite making work.
Pig is a stone-cold poetic delight. Go see it.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
Pig is now playing at Light House Cuba!