December 2, 2021

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What does this melancholic film tell us? We can feel it is about something important. But what? Although the hero could achieve a sense of balance and harmony as a great chef earlier in his life, he can now only find these moments of grace as a hermit looking for truffles and mushrooms in the wild, with the help of his beloved pig. What does that tell us about our times?

An American film of 2021 directed and written by Michael Sarnoski (with co-writer Vanessa Block), with Nicolas Cage as the main character. Often listed as one of the best films of 2021.


This film is about Robin “Rob” Feld, a retired widow, once a famous chef of Portland, Oregon, who now lives as a recluse communing with nature, with a pig as his sole company. The pig doubles as his assistant in his search for truffles and mushrooms in the wild.

His beloved animal is stolen, which leads Rob to try and find it in Portland, bringing back memories of his past, accompanied by his commercial truffle buyer, young aspiring businessman Amir who has demons of his own, in part due to his mafia-like father, Darius, who may have something to do with the stolen pig. We learn that Darius, the father, once had an exceptional experience at Rob’s restaurant, with Rob as chef, an exceptional meal marked by grace and harmony, a meal that his wife cherished in a rare moment of happiness. Unhappy with her life, Darius’ wife later attempted suicide.

Rob’s search leads him back to the restaurant where he used to be a famous chef, where he meets the present maître’D who confirms, in response to Rob’s pointed questions, that the business of gourmet meals has been perverted in recent years, owing to different factors such as consumer dictates and commercial constraints. In the process, the maître’D recognized that he, himself, has lost sight of his own choices and lifestyle preferences.

Rob later learns his beloved pig was killed, somewhat accidentally, during the events related to its theft.

He then returns to his hermit life, sometimes listening to his deceased wife’s voice on an old tape recorder.


There is no doubt that this story is a type of story that is ripe for interpretation. And many interesting ones were offered.

It can be seen, first, as focussing on themes that are related to individual elements, such as loss, grief, mourning, life and death. As such, it can be described as “gently meditative” (Linda Marric, in The Jewish Chronicle), a story about the need “to come to terms with the utter finality of death” (Robert Roten of The Laramie Movie Scope).

Going a few steps further, David Sims of The Atlantic writes it is “a clever story of how commercialism rots the purity of artistic expressions”.


In the Movie Shrink’s view, there is a more general, but an admittedly nerdy interpretation to this story.

The film is really about the loss of balance, of harmony. In moments of grace, such as the great meal Darius, Amir’s father enjoyed with his deceased wife at Rob’s restaurant, a decade ago, these cherished moments can be experienced, but they are rare, and they may even be disappearing. As suggested by David Sims, referred to earlier, they can be perverted by commercialism. That is part of the equation.

But there may be more.

It may be that, beyond commercial constraints, there remains the challenge of being respectful to nature, of course, but also to ourselves. The conversation between Rob and the restaurant’s current maître’D suggested that it is difficult to be authentic today. The great meals that could be experienced in Rob’s restaurant, with all the balance and harmony they suggested between our sensory perception, are moments that are rare indeed.

These moments of grace may be even rarer today, for whatever reason, commercialism, greed, the urban environment, mass culture, or a loss of a sense of balance.

This sensory balance and harmony can still survive, but its chances of surviving are better with a reclusive hermit living in a forest and looking for truffles and mushrooms with all his senses, with his eyes, his sense of smell, and his taste than in a fancy restaurant in Portland. Pigs can achieve this better than most humans, but an exceptional chef, living in the wild, can do it too.