In the forests of Oregon, a man and his pig live in harmony, hunting truffles, eating together, staying together in a rustic shack with no electricity or running water. Silent, independent and obstinate, Robin’s only contact is a weekly visit from Amir who requires the truffles for his restaurant business in Portland, exchanging them for goods from the outside world.

An arrangement to the benefit of all, it is shattered when men arrive in the night and beat Robin down, his pig squealing in protest as they take her, forcing him to return to a city he has not seen for ten years, a distant world of metal bridges and people who don’t understand him, back in the old neighbourhood which doesn’t want him.

The opening night film of the 2021 Edinburgh International Film Festival, and indeed the first “in person” screening since 2019, the entire 2020 season having been conducted online, Pig is the directorial debut of Michael Sarnoski, the script co-written with Vanessa Block, a showcase for Nicolas Cage, as marked by loss as in Mandy but his rage contained, simmering gently rather than boiling over, his weapon his knowledge of the city and its secrets.

Bruised but resolved, a man who has left society and not once looked back until it came for what little he had, the upmarket restaurant business he left behind is now run by the wealthy and ambitious, Amir (Hereditary’s Alex Wolff) struggling to make a name, looked down upon by his successful father Darius (Sons of Anarchy’s Adam Arkin), a covetous man who has so much yet wants more.

A film of contrasts, Pig traverses the forest and the city, the bond between a man and his pig and the distance between a father and a son, the clean linen of the tables by the window and the underground fight clubs in the back rooms, the resentment of those who struggle for a reputation when faced with those whose genuine talent is as profound as it is graceful.

Robin able to create a meal able to make a man weep over the memories it stirs, Pig is less Ratatouille for grown-ups as a bleaker version of The Straight Story, a man who prefers his own company doing what he has to do quietly and without fuss in the only way he knows, however unconventional, a recipe blog for those exhausted by life where blood and tears are mixed with the ingredients to offer a brief spark of sensory joy to offset the inevitability of earthquakes and death.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival continues until Wednesday 25th August



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