- Katherine McLaughlin
- 18 August 2021
The mighty Nicolas Cage excels in a touching story of a lost pig in the opening movie of this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival
Nicolas Cage was inspired to play a man on a quest to retrieve his stolen truffle pig because of the love he feels for his pet cat, Merlin. The set-up may sound like another John Wick-style animal revenge mission, but Michael Sarnoski's invigorating feature debut (from a story co-conceived with Vanessa Block) has other things on its mind. This is a slow-burn takedown of modern societal ills, with capitalist greed and waste its chief targets.
Pig plays out in three parts, each taking on the title of a delicious-sounding meal. Cage plays Rob, a previously renowned but now-retired chef who has retreated to the solitude of the woods, earning his dough selling truffles to local Portland entrepreneur Amir (Alex Wolff from Hereditary). After his pig is stolen in the dead of night, with Rob left bloodied and bruised on the floor, he teams up with Amir who drives him through the bright lights of the big city in an attempt to track her down.
As Rob revisits the pain and beauty of his past, the use of location serves up gorgeously evocative imagery, with John Ford's iconic doorway in The Searchers repeatedly referenced. Striking cinematography by Patrick Scola drinks in the sights and architecture of suburban areas set against the backdrop of vast Oregon woodland, showing a magnificent eye for detail. The contrast forms a potent mix of grubby and delectable, so much so that you can almost smell the aromas of Rob's bittersweet trudge through fancy restaurants, pop-up eateries and bakeries.
When Rob is closer to the simple cabin homelife, director Sarnoski illustrates his contentment and respect for nature through his activities. Not only does he bake mushroom tarts next to his beloved auburn pig (played by a sow named Brandy) who whips her long hair back and forth as flour falls gently to the ground in the attractively-lit wilderness, he also sleeps peacefully by her side. Cage's intimidating physical presence, with his character dressed in dirty rags and face a mess, is juxtaposed with his gentle actions and passionate words. His is a restrained, though occasionally confrontational performance in a film that deals with loss, grief and fragile masculinity in sensitive and surprising ways. Pig plays out like a modern western, with just a pinch of Pixar's Ratatouille adding a few more tender notes.
Pig was screened at Festival Theatre, Wednesday 18 August, and goes on general release in cinemas from Friday 20 August.