Dead Pigs is a weird, weird ride. Weird in a good way? Sure, sometimes. The film is unique; I’ll give it that. I’ve never seen another film like it, and filmmaker Cathy Yan has an undeniable substance that oozes in her work. My problem with Dead Pigs is that it drags at times. With a runtime of over two hours, a lot of it felt unnecessary. Still, the film is full of compelling characters that seamlessly intersect with one another. All of the actors have arcs, and they handle them with compelling nuances. The film is also beautiful to look at. We see Shanghai in all of its scale and glory. It gives a grand scope to the small, personal stories we follow. It’s visually just as, if not more interesting than it’s strange premise.
“…the film is full of compelling characters that seamlessly intersect with one another.”
The film begins with a weird epidemic where pigs are just keeling over and dying for unknown reasons. We’re introduced to our first lead, a drunken Pig Farmer who wastes his money of VR and booze. Later we’re introduced to a strict and stubborn homeowner who refuses to take a deal that would see her family home gentrified and turned into a weird “East Meets West” apartment complex. After that, we meet the American businessman whose career depends on a deal that could make or break him. Lastly, we’re introduced to a spoiled and mean rich girl and a busboy that lies about his occupation. What do all of these characters have in common? Well, it turns out their lives crash into one another in some pretty ingenious and enthralling ways. Oddly enough, the pig subplot doesn’t factor in afterward. We see clips on the news, but really nothing else. It’s a background gag, for the most part, unless you count a scene where I’m pretty sure the Pig Farmer uses pig farming as an analogy for raising a child, but maybe I’m looking too much into that.
“I think its quirky charm and sense of humor will turn off a lot of people…”
Dead Pigs has one of the weirdest endings I have ever seen. Without spoiling anything, there’s a musical bit that begs for audience participation, but no one in the screening I was in decided to follow along. To the film’s credit, the characters have interesting arcs and show true evident growth. I think its quirky charm and sense of humor will turn off a lot of people, but if you’re into the weird and unusual you might want to give Dead Pigs a look. It’s far from great, but it’s an entertaining and pleasant enough watch.
Dead Pigs (2018) Written and Directed by: Cathy Yan. Starring: Zazie Beetz, David Rysdahl, Vivian Wu, Mason Lee
Dead Pigs played as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
7 out of 10