We don’t get a lot of things to really care about

 “We don’t get a lot of things to really care about”

The world is really kind of shite. You know it. I know it. Hell, even the guy on the nightly news knows it. Part of the country is on fire (literally). Part of the country is washing away into the ocean. The climate is on course to morph into something completely hellish. Oh! I almost forgot – we are into the second year of a global pandemic. It’s easy to give up. Hell, it would feel good to give up. Just wallow in despair and ennui and maybe drink cheap bourbon until your liver goes tits up. Each week it gets harder to contend with Camus’ questions/challenge: why doesn’t everyone commit suicide?

The answer is that sometimes we get something to care about. Maybe it’s your spouse, or your child, or your community, or art, or music, or just a perfect lunch. Whatever it is that works for you, you have to hold it; protect it; Really, really care about it.

Robin, the character played by Nicholas Cage in Michael Sarnoki’s  Pig, cares about his eponymous pet.  He lives in a ramshackle cabin in the forest and hunts truffles with his pet.  He was, once upon a time, a world renowned chef. Grief drove him from his old life and he retreated into the forest to live. The film only lightly dances around his backstory, and that is for the best.  We watch for none or ten minutes without language as he lives and cooks and works with his only friend in the world.  
Then the pig is stolen.

If you have seen the trailer for this movie, you likely expect something like John Wick to unfold. Nothing could be further from what we actually get. Robin and Amir (Alex Wolff) go in search of the purloined pig. The journey takes them into the city and around the edges of Robin’s old life. We the audience are washed along on the lightly surreal journey as they hunt for clues the way the pig hunted for truffles. 

Cage carries his body like a coiled snake. His eyes and brow seem like steel. You can see that he is a powerful creature ready to strike out. Again and again we are brought to the moment when we expect him to explode in violence. Instead. In every instance, he answers others with kindness. He knows that in the end none of it matters (he gives a wonderful monologue about how Seattle will eventually vanish into the sea and be forgotten), but care is what he offers.

Nicholas Cage is known for performances that explode off the screen. Sometimes to great effect (Mandy, Leaving Las Vegas). Sometimes to not so great effect (Primal). Here he has internalized everything. He is quiet. He emotes with a droop of the shoulder, or a twitch of the thumb. It is a fine performance. The finest of Cage’s career, to be sure. 

Pig is a low, sweetly sad meditation on grief. Grieving has been called the final act of love, and as perfect as that sounds, it is important to remember that the final act in the film of our lives is a permanent one. It doesn't end until they shovel the dirt over our coffin.

Somehow this film is the perfect piece of art for this particular strange, terrifying moment in our history. It is easily the best film of the pandemic. If you have not seen it, do so. Then think about the very few things that you have to really care about.