Written and Directed by Carlota Pereda.
Starring Laura Galán, Adrian Grösser, Carmen Machi, Julián Valcárcel, José Pastor, Irene Ferreiro, Camille Aguilar, Claudia Salas, Richard Holmes, Pilar Castro, Chema del Barco, Fernando Delgado-Hierro, Amets Otxoa, Mabel del Pozo, Fred Tatien, Stéphanie Magnin Vella, and Lía Lois.
An overweight teen is bullied by a clique of cool girls poolside while holidaying in her village. The long walk home will change the rest of her life.
What would you do in your teenage years if you came across your bullies getting abducted by a probable serial killer? That’s the central premise of Piggy (written and directed by Carlota Pereda) and a damn fine compelling hook for two reasons: it places an unusual protagonist type at the forefront of the narrative in plus-sized Sara (Laura Galán delivering an outstanding turn selling the humiliation aspects as much as an increasingly conflicted and questionable but deeply empathetic thought process), a person that rarely leads movies, and forces the audience into a rewarding uncomfortable position regarding who lives and dies.
Late in the movie, during one of Laura Galán’s many emotional scenes (nothing about Piggy, also the cruel nickname of the heroine repeatedly lobbed her way by bullies, would be effective without her presence as an actual plus-sized girl, the boldness and bravery of the performance she is game for, and her complex facial expressions telling this disturbing coming-of-age character arc), she breaks down exclaiming that “she never does anything right.”
At that moment, there’s a bittersweet sensation that it’s good that she is acknowledging the mistakes she makes along the way as a passive act of revenge, and also a sadness considering if everyone surrounding her simply treated her with an ounce more kindness, she wouldn’t be in this position. It’s a memorable line delivery that encapsulates everything this character seems to be going through as things barrel to a suspenseful decision-making climax.
When not being relentlessly picked on for her size, Sara is either with her family or hiding somewhere. The whole family is secretly referred to online by the bullies as “the three little pigs,” except Sara’s father (Julián Valcárcel) appears comfortable with his frame, sitting shirtless at the dinner table. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition compared to Sara, occasionally looking at herself through mirrors cutting off her image below her neck (shot by Rita Noriega, every frame speaks to the film’s themes), as if it’s legitimately painful to see her entire frame. However, the parents don’t actually do anything to assist or empower their daughter; the dad only cares about having her fetch him another beer, and the mom (Carmen Machi) indulges in the same hurtful rhetorical but is two-faced, defending her daughter around others.
Unaware that her bullies are near the public swimming pool, Sara is first mocked for her swimsuit appearance, which then quickly transitions into something darker with attempted murder by drowning. Of course, there’s also the requisite peer aware that what’s happening is wrong, but to cowardice to stand up to her nasty friend group. After that fails, the girls run off with Sara’s belongings, ensuring she has to walk home half naked.
On this dehumanizing walk of embarrassment, Sara stumbles across a dead body, and a quietly intimidating man (Richard Holmes), an onlooker at the swimming pool, is kidnapping them. Without saying a word, the stranger easily convinces Sara to look the other way and not tell a soul, leading to a civil guard investigation and spinning a yarn of lies. As Sara sneaks out at night to retrieve her phone, she encounters the man again, this time with the dynamic taking an unspoken turn to mutual sexual attraction (upon returning home, Sara masturbates).
All these complicated character relationships build to a thrilling conclusion steeped in sadistic torture and decorated with blood. Piggy takes a while to get there with a middle section that is somewhat tedious to get through (the police investigation is not particularly interesting, and neither are the mothers of the missing children), but remains fixated on Sara’s state of mind. Laura Galán gives Piggy the shot of authenticity needed to work, also excelling at the genre carnage when it’s time. And Piggy doesn’t hold back on the gore while ensuring this brutality carries narrative impact.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
Source via www.flickeringmyth.com