Sarnoski's debut is a beautiful, unique take on loss and moving forward.
Nicolas Cage has been something of a cinematic joke for quite some time now. In spite of the frequent brilliance of his performances and his intense charisma on screen, his choice of roles and his tendency to completely let himself go onscreen has led to the common belief that he is a poor performer, someone who can only do the typical Nic Cage zany performance and nothing more. This level of typecasting has haunted his career since the turn of the century, seeing him go from incredible performances like his Oscar winner Leaving Las Vegas and working with directors like Brian De Palma, John Woo, Michael Bay, David Lynch and his relative Francis Ford Coppola to consistently starring in straight to DVDs and mis-represented films marketed as action heavy thrillers, setting them up for failure whether they’re good or not.
One thing has remained consistent, however, and that is Cage’s willingness to try anything. Pig finally depicts him going against his surprisingly strong typecasting as a criminal who lets loose in the name of revenge, instead channelling a much more introspective and subtle performance as a quiet man who leaves his home in the wilderness to go back to the city and re-enter society in search of his beloved truffle pig. The premise sounds odd, sure, but Pig’s misdirection is one of its most brilliant elements – Sarnoski excellently takes the audience expectations of the typical Nicolas Cage revenge film (a la John Wick) and subverts every single one, releasing something quieter and far more gentle that studies the ripple effect loss has on individuals. Without spoiling anything, Pig certainly isn’t what you would expect, deviating from all expectations to craft an intensely beautiful, grounded film that uses its central relationship between Cage’s Robin and Alex Wolff’s Amir to speak on generational issues, changes in attitudes and political views and the parts of human nature that unite people in spite of their seemingly never-ending differences.
For a debut, Sarnoski’s direction is really strong. He directs with confidence, clearly believing in his vision and leaning into the oddball quirks of the script and the performances to create something all the more unique, reminiscent of a work like Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin in its focus and deviation from expectations (while the films share no other similarities, their directorial approaches seem similar!). The studio behind the film, Neon, seem to really be hitting their stride having released indie hit after indie hit for the past few years, too, from the intensely acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Celina Sciamma to Brandon Cronenberg’s sci-fi thriller Possessor.
Needless to say, Pig is a truly great film (maybe even the greatest that 2021 has had to offer so far). It is a film with so many good attributes that are too often missing from mainstream film at the moment: it has endless patience, it isn’t afraid to be low-key and quiet and it dares to go against initial expectations in the name of strengthening its impact on its audience. The film crafts a deeply touching rumination on loss and the struggle to move forward after tragedy that is more similar to something like Kenneth Lonergan’s masterpiece Manchester by the Sea rather than John Wick, which so many have compared it to. Pig sticks to its guns, and is all the better for it.
Pig, certificate 15, releases to U.K. cinemas on the 20th of August. Watch the trailer below: