I love Nicholas Cage films (Con Air – amirite?) except when I don’t; good and bad Cage films is a subject too vast for me to begin to address here. But Pig had really good reviews and Cage said it was one of his finest performances so I thought we should give it a go. Having learned my lesson from films like Marley and Me I went onto www.doesthedogdie.com and so felt informed and resourced about the fate of the pig before starting.
Warning: Spoiler alert!
I’m not going to lie; I was hoping for a John Wick style revenge movie, I was expecting some pig peril followed by some carefully choreographed fighting and satisfying resolution. Boy was I way off base with that!
In the film Nicholas Cage plays a reclusive truffle hunter (Robin Feld) living the simple life in the woods with his (incredibly adorable) pig. In the night his pig is stolen, and he goes looking for her with the reluctant help of his truffle dealer, the only person he appears to know. Robin’s search for his beloved pig takes him on a painful journey through his old life; we learn that he used to be a celebrated chef, very successful and very in love until his partner (Laurie) died and he gradually withdrew from all human connections.
Throughout the film Robin encounters others who are struggling with their own losses; a chef who has given up on his dreams and is living an anxious half-life. The truffle dealer, so desperate to prove himself and gain his father’s approval but falling short, and the father who has closed himself off to pain and has become hardened to all emotions, including love and empathy. Each, in their own way, is living an isolated, lonely life like Robin’s, so closed off from their hurt that they can hardly experience anything at all.
Pig explored the limbo between death and life, how loss permeates every part of us until we feel like a stranger to ourselves, and how the world relentlessly turns when ours has stopped. We expect to find grief in the big events – birthdays, Christmases etc, but grief also shows itself in smaller, more relentless ways; my grandmother’s birthday comes and goes without much impact but the smell of burnt toast has left sitting on the stairs sobbing with overwhelming loss. Grief seeps in through the cracks, sneaks up on us and hits us hard. We can find it hard to explain or express those moments of intense pain, because who would understand that an evening breeze or the smell of cut grass can make us feel so lonely that we can’t breathe? Or how everything can look the same, but nothing is safe or familiar?
Pig, for me, was not about a recovery from grief, it wasn’t about moving on or resolution, it was about letting grief in. It wasn’t grief that isolated Robin from the people who loved him, it was his avoidance of grief; he removed himself completely from the life he shared with Laurie, and in doing so, lost all connection to her.
It takes enormous courage to stay with painful feelings; sometimes loss sweeps over us like a tidal wave, overwhelming and frightening, especially at first. At other times it’s like a stone in our shoe, always there – painful, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Grieving is something that we can’t always do alone. I wonder how things would have been different for Robin if he had shared his grief with the people who loved him, if he had allowed himself to feel loss, to cry, to rage, laugh, to remember or forget?
Pig inevitably reminded me of my own grief; When my father died suddenly just before my 30th birthday the shock and pain of it was overwhelming. Like many people, my experience was that leading up to the funeral I had lots of support, people checked in on me and asked how I was, with hushed tones and concerned looks. But after the funeral people started to drift away, it was like a signal that normal life had resumed but for me that’s where the grief really began, it’s natural and I understood but when people told me “I’m here if you want to talk”, it was up to me to reach out, at a time when I could barely function. I remember the huge relief and gratitude I felt when a friend asked what had happened to my dad; someone wanted to know, someone invited me to talk. And talking helped more than it hurt and the more I talked (and felt) the more I learned to tolerate the pain. Now that grief is like an old injury that flares up in cold weather; it’s still really painful sometimes but I can live with it and somewhere happier memories, laughter and love found their way back in.