Robin “Rob” Feld (Nicolas Cage) has taken to the woods of the Oregon forest as his fortress. His appearance is unkempt, complete with a long, scraggly gray bread. A metaphor for the oxidation of life when you have to deal with loss. He used to be a star chef in Portland, now the dimly lit rooms of a wood cabin are what he calls home. His only companion is a pig (apply named Pig). His new job is a truffle forager, which pig helps him find. He once had a wife, now gone, and the only information of her we know is a cassette tape she made for him. One that he can’t bring himself to play.
One night, a few men come to Rob’s cabin and beat him up viciously. Thus, also kidnapping his pig. Writer/director Michael Sarnoski could have gone the conventional route and leaned into Cage’s more animated roles as of late. Could have sent Rob’s character on to a murderous rampage as he tries to find the whereabouts of the only friend he has left. Instead, Pig is a subdued character study of a man who tries to keep the pieces he has left intact. Someone who has to reintegrate himself into a society he no longer has an interest in partaking in. He rather hang in the willows of nature, grating into the present.
Rob sells these truffles to Amir (Alex Wolff), a young man who is at the head of his own truffle selling business. At first, there’s a wall between these two. Only limited to passing comments from Amir about Rob’s appearance, smell, and that he should get updated appliances. As the film goes on, one finds that their stories are more intertwined than at first glance. Both of them go into Portland to find the whereabouts of the pig. Sarnoski keeps the details sparse. Rob’s reentry into the restaurants and the pseudo-chef fight club that happens at night enables a mystique around him. Upon seeing Rob, characters speak of him as a famed chef, almost like a mythological legend. Nothing that Rob is interested in indulging in. He has one mission on his mind. For Amir, it’s the life of fortune and importance that he’s chasing.
Also, the acceptance of his father, Darius (Adam Arkin), who, like Rob, has also experienced loss. A loss that’s created a hollowness to him. While the mission at hand puts these two unlikely characters together, Pig asks, is there a way to shed the skin of grieving? Or if not to shed, to bring a slight bit of life into those who are left behind in its wake?
Cage’s character is a man of few words. However, when he utters them, there’s haunted intelligence to them. A sense of weighted wisdom that you only gain by living and losing. Pig doesn’t tell its story with expediency. There are quiet moments when Rob briefly visits his old house where he and his wife once lived. Cage’s silence tells the story before he talks to a kid who lives there now. Cage is able to communicate so much just in his appearance and physical demeanor alone. Together with Wolff, who is a young adult actively trying to find a place in the world; they make good foils for each other. One man has seen what the world offers and another trying to find what that means for himself.
Sarnoski’s first feature film is not a cautionary tale about how the trials of life can bring somebody down to the brink. It’s a visual and hearty exploratory exposition on how to live with it. Almost as, Rob’s character is the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing everybody what can be. Even then, there’s a beauty within the ragged clothing and broken skin disposition of a person who makes the choice to be that way.
Photo Credit: Neon Pictures