A Review of Pig: The Essence of Memories and How They Define Us

A Review of Pig: The Essence of Memories and How They Define Us

Nicholas Cage stars in his most recent movie as a former chef on a journey to find his interesting choice of a companion

Nicholas Cage stars in his most recent movie as a former chef on a journey to find his interesting choice of a companion

Jasmin Parrado, Staff Writer

I know what you’re thinking: pig?

A beautiful cinematic experience with splendid tonality and depth underlies a movie about… a pig?

Who would have known that such a simplistic premise could become so refined and whole? Nicholas Cage has brought his acting chops to it in Pig, a film centered on a truffle forager, Robin Field, who, upon abrupt circumstances, is left to search for his stolen… well, pig. But this isn’t just any pig; this is one that is supposedly excellent at detecting truffles for her owner in the dense, dark forests of Oregon, therefore holding unquestionable value in regard to the success of the culinary businesses that depend on the wild shrooms. Rob is determined to locate his fellow truffle-foraging buddy, and he sets out into the city with the help of his rather affluent and superficial customer, Amir (played by Alex Wolff) to get her back.

The situation lends itself to numerous reunions, many without definitive resolve as Rob ventures through the city; and through these reunions, viewers get to piece together the man he was before he isolated himself from the world after his wife’s tragic death. Upon picking up the conversations that recall essential experiences in the past, we gradually learn of his previous status as a master chef in Portland and of his impact on the very people that surround him in the present day.

In the culinary profession, Rob is revered, so we’re left to question just how such a prominent chef’s fate deteriorated to a rather lonely atmosphere over the course of his life. How could he insist on leaving behind a life that entailed the greatest use of his passion for cooking? Not one smile graces Cage’s weary face as he skillfully plays a character so seemingly drawn far out from the rapid, urgent pace of the world beyond the wilderness. The neon city lights drown the muted shades of his mud-brown coat and dirty gloves, and amidst the crowd, Rob looks lost—confused, even, in the spinning and sprawl of the places in which he held (and still holds) great repute for his proficiency.

But upon watching the movie and listening to what he says, I’ve realized that the opposite holds true here: it is not Rob, but rather, those around him, that are detached from and denying the blatant truth of their circumstances and philosophies. Old colleagues that sport expensive uniforms and perform with the intent to reap the fruits of their contribution to a superficial lifestyle are reminded by a solemn Rob, filthy and exhausted and real, of the goals they once pursued and the dreams they once held. When he and Amir confront Derrick, a former chef from his restaurant, about him not fulfilling his old dream of running a pub and instead settling for a trendy façade, you can see the pain in Derrick’s eyes—the contortions of his face and the straining of his surface-level smile. You can feel the desperation embedded in his soul, protruding upon the awakening of that memory, and it makes you realize that Rob does not deny loss or conflict—he already understands it, and perhaps, that is why he avoids confronting it—but his cognition still stands with a straight purpose, and that is to find his pig. His blunt direction makes him seem distant and cold, but at the end of the day, his is the most compassionate purpose defining the entirety of the movie and emphasizing its most important themes.

In wake of my realization of Rob’s core authenticity, I found solace, surprisingly enough, in the way that he communicated with other characters throughout the movie. In film today, numerous protagonists that fit Rob’s rugged profile must be sparked by their surroundings; but Rob sparks HIS surroundings instead. Whereas other pessimistic protagonists like him tend to be withdrawn from other people’s realities, Rob becomes aware of and addresses the personal situations of other characters. Of course, this may be for the sole purpose of appealing to them to track down his pig, but in retrospect, Cage’s acting encompasses the soul of a man that still knows hope. Perhaps he doesn’t go so far as to pursue it and rebuild, considering his own circumstances, but he recognizes the potential of hope in other people, even if he does not wish to feel it himself. He remembers and sees; not one glance away from the screen spares you Cage’s piercing gaze that says, “I know exactly what you feel and think,” because as you approach the scene and observe, he is always listening, regardless of what he is doing in the moment. He still possesses some form of awareness and compassion that is usually stripped off a main character from the very beginning in order to develop the classic arc of personal revival or change. This story is different: it doesn’t overwhelmingly change him—it explores him.

This is where we get to appreciate art in its finest form; we see ourselves in the common themes of grief, loss and overcoming, because there is no immediate external basis upon which we must exercise situational mindsets encouraging a different temperament, often inaccurately portraying a character’s truest self. We get to sit with each character instead, and we relate to them as they are; their sadness, anger, and frustration rings a familiar tone in our hearts and prompts us to understand Rob’s perpetual sadness. The film makes us experience the casual whistle calls and unlit forest shacks, and it forces us to witness the anxiety-fueling door knocks and desperate negotiations that accompany the journey of finding one singular pig. Even when Rob approaches Amir’s father, Darius, who is the callous and long-anticipated perpetrator of the pig-napping incident, all he has to do to break him down is simply cook him the very meal that he and his currently comatose wife bonded over years ago at his restaurant. Darius, upon smelling the fine wine and tasting the meal, is now a man reduced to tears—brought back to reality and thawed like the meat on his platter.

Rob says to him, “I remember every meal I ever cooked.” He does. You just know he does.

Reflecting on the past is a universal challenge of its own—we want to move on. We want to endure the purgatory of quiet isolation that results from our unwillingness to reflect, because we’d take anything, anything rather than the grueling process of pain and grief. And under the film’s wonderful screenwriting, we see that in Rob. He does not deny the presence of his problems, but he just simply does not want to face them, much like we don’t. He abruptly turns off a tape recording with his wife’s voice in it, because he just can’t stand to hear it without her there by him. He’s not ignorant or oblivious; he’s tired. Rob recognizes that memories cannot be erased; however, they stay with us, kneading in every aspect of our personalities and interests. Careers and loved ones are like rows of thread weaving the very shape of our existence. Rob’s career as a chef allowed him to reach the souls of people through his food—and even now, without the exquisite wine and delicious entrees, his ability to pierce the surface transcends every part of his way of being. He still knows how to do what he does. Now he just applies it to the story—he has to, until he realizes he has no one left to confront or remind but himself.

So as he treads home by the end of the movie, surrounded by the navy tone of dusk, we feel utter emptiness and exhaustion. When he washes his bloody face and discards his heavy boots, we know he has to bring back one more memory.

When Rob sits down on his bedside, turning on the tape recorder, and when his wife’s voice chimes in sweetly with warmth and love—when Rob hears her sing and looks up as though to see her through the heavens beyond the ceiling of the rugged shack, we know he is reaching for his own soul, somewhere buried deep inside. He remembers.