Pig, or Taken for bacon, is about the theft of truffle pig, and its reclusive owner’s journey to save it.

Nicolas Cage is such a liability for a movie. I watched the trailer, and was like, is this for real? Like, is this meant to be funny? Cage growls about wanting his pig back in a manner reminiscent of “Put the bunny back”. At one point in the cinema, this trailer played and folk were openly laughing. Trouble is when you’ve played a parody of yourself for 15 years, it’s hard to pivot back when you wanna be taken seriously. I remember him having to explicitly state he wasn’t just pulling another manic caricature when Mandy came out, and similarly with Color Out of Space. Attaching a former, or arguably still, A-list name to your film is a good way to get financing and attention, but Cage is really a double-edged sword.

All of which is to say, Pig is not a comedy. There are a few moments of congenial levity, but no. It is instead a mournful journey back into the world of the main character’s old life, and in many ways confirming why he left. It has a melancholy tone, and despite one or two scenes of rough-and-tumble, largely is compromised of going places and sitting down at a table and having a conversation with someone. The main character is taciturn, so these scenes aren’t even necessarily that heavy on dialogue. In tone, it’s closer to something like Blue Ruin.

The annoying thing about Nicolas Cage is, he can actually act. He’s actually great in this. He conveys a sense of loss and self-sufficiency throughout his performance, but can bring a wealth of emotion out from behind his barricades, turning this closed-off character inside out and open, in a way that rings with real vulnerability. It’s understated and it’s nuanced.

Which makes you wonder, so you can do this, you just choose not to? Whatever.

Also coming in hot with a strong performance is Alex Wolff, of Hereditary fame. He contrasts Cage’s silence and internal conflict with a chatty and flashy over-compensation. Yet, he equally manages to convey the fundamental human longing for fulfilment.

Together, their road trip takes them through questions of what we are looking for, and how we try to find it, successfully or unsuccessfully, in a variety of places. The main character is a man whose life burnt down, and who, in the ashes, took real stock of what he needed and what he didn’t need, what he wanted and what he didn’t want, and what mattered and what didn’t matter. His clarity contrasts with the markers of wealth, fame, and fashion of the Portland restaurant scene. The constant to-and-fro of seeking validation and a reflection of a satisfying self-image in the eyes of others.

But even in a life so pared down, loss is loss and grief is grief. And what we do in times of such challenges, is still a journey of discovery.