'Pig' Is a Meditative, Melancholy Search for Nic Cage's Best Pig Pal

The man just wants his pig back.

pig nic cage
Neon

In a small cabin, somewhere in the austere wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, lives a shaggy-haired monosyllabic man (Nicolas Cage) and his smush-faced, red-furred truffle hunter pig (Brandy, understudy Cora). He talks to his pig, he cooks meals for his pig, and he forages with his pig for truffles, the rare, delicious subterranean mushrooms he sells to a prickly upstart truffle distributor (Alex Wolff) who pulls up onto his property in his yellow Camaro once a week.

One evening, the man's pig is stolen by a violent gang, and he vows to do everything he can to bring her back. So begins director Michael Sarnoski's film Pig, which spins a meditative, emotional tale of companionship and acceptance of loss around a subdued performance from Cage, the likes of which haven't been seen in a very long time.

Cage plays Rob, full name Robin Feld, a former master chef who traded in his toque in exchange for solitude after a mysterious tragedy upended his world and made him give up the restaurateur life forever. John Wick-like, he reluctantly returns to Portland in search of his stolen pig, leaving wide eyes and silenced conversations in his wake as he stops by his old haunts, scrawling his name onto the board at a chef fight club and dropping it after sitting down at tables in restaurants of former rivals. The world built in all of these little details is so immediately believable: This guy used to be, and perhaps still is, a big deal.

In between all these moments, a companionship of sorts forms between Rob and Amir (Wolff) as Amir ferries Rob around the city in his bright yellow sports car, discussing everything from Amir's strained relationship with his intimidating chef father to the earthquake and accompanying tsunami that will one day level Portland and the surrounding woods (itself the subject of a viral New Yorker article from 2015). Rob's relationship with food—one based on the tiniest of knowledges, like levels of tannins in persimmons and finding truffles by just looking at the trees themselves—is contrasted with the exhausting compulsion by some modern "cutting edge" restaurants to turn the simple act of cooking into a maze of unfulfilling small plates accompanied by descriptions full of bullshit. "I remember every meal I ever cooked," Rob says, moments after reminding a successful chef that what he really wanted to do, once, was open a pub.

The movie also looks gorgeous: the interiors of wide-windowed apartments are shot with as much care as the dingy spaces of a clapboard cabin, the camera lingering on eerie shots of enormous trees, or flour lightly misting through the air and falling onto the snout of a pig. Pig is as moody and deliberate as its protagonist, owing less to a straightforward thriller like Taken and more to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a journey into the underworld on faith alone, in which love is tested, harsh truths are revealed, and heartbreak is inevitable.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.