Pig, directed by Michael Sarnoski in his debut feature and co-written by Vanessa Block, lies at a poignant intersection of food, memory, and grief. Not something you’d expect from a movie with this particular name, but then again, you never know what to expect with Nicolas Cage. In this case, performances and themes transcend an otherwise simple premise, but the amount it does in small doses is where the film really shines.
Cage plays Rob, an outcast living in a cabin in the woods with no one but his truffle-hunting pig. His only vistor is Amir (a perfectly cast Alex Wolff), who stops by every Thursday for that week’s haul of truffles. Amir shows up in nice clothes and an expensive car, clearly out of place in Rob’s ramshackle cabin. This dynamic—mysterious hunter-gatherer and well-off trust fund type—is immediately familiar, as is the assumed trajectory of their business partnership over the course of the film. Pig subverts expectations, however, by making Amir and Rob’s growing understanding of each other central to the story.
Sarnoski and Block do so much with so little through the writing in Pig.
But Cage also gives an understated performance that is stronger for how much he doesn’t do. Rob looks scary—part of that is because he spends most of the time covered in his own blood, dried to half of his face, and never once indicates he wants to wash it off.
Preconceived notions of Cage as a performer come into play, too. In several parts of this film, there’s an expectation, perhaps even a want, to see an unhinged Cage. But even in the most violent scenes of the film (of which there’s very little), it’s not Cage doing any of it. In fact, the moments we expect to erupt into violence instead turn more toward moments of conversation, introspection, or intense releases of grief.
When Rob’s pig is stolen from him, it sets him off on a path to reconnect with a past he left behind. For Amir, joining Rob on the quest to save his pig lets him understand his business partner more, while also learning to trust his instincts in the truffle business. Maybe they won’t exactly friends by the end of it, but they could possibly grow to respect one another.
Part of that is through food.
As a chef, Rob has a strong relationship to food and the way it can bring people together. Amir’s on the business side of the industry, but an important aspect of his story reveals how much food can be tied to memory. You always remember a good meal, not just because of the taste but because of the company there with you, or the emotion it made you feel at the time. Coming together for a well-cooked meal, no matter if you’re enemies or business rivals, creates a common ground where anything may be possible.
That’s what Pig is great at. While slow at times, there’s a lot of empathy and care taken in crafting these character we come across, even if they’re the “villain.” It’ll also make you crave a home-cooked meal, and that’s honestly the most you can take from any movie.
Pig is now available to watch in select theaters. You can watch the full trailer here.