Piggy (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): The butcher girl

“Piggy” is a little movie which will make you deeply uncomfortable from its very beginning. Dryly but chillingly illustrating its unforgettable adolescent heroine’s anger, fear, confusion, and frustration along the story, the movie will often unnerve you a lot for good reasons, and its compelling juxtaposition of its specific coming-of-age tale and familiar genre elements will leave a lasting impression on your mind.

At the beginning, the movie shows us another miserable day of its heroine. Sara (Laura Galán) is the daughter of a butcher couple living in some rural Spanish village, and we come to gather that she has been a social outcast to other local kids around her age due to her overweight appearance. When some good-looking boy happens to hang around with several girls outside her parent’s shop, she cannot help but look at them from the distance, and then she soon becomes a target for mean ridicule when three of these girls enter the shop. To make matters worse, her callous parents are totally oblivious to what is going on, and that makes Sara all the more frustrated and exasperated.

However, this turns out to be nothing compared to what she suffers later. When she is about to do some swimming alone at a pool outside the village, Sara is approached by those three girls, who commit something as vicious and cruel as what Carrie White suffers during the opening scene of “Carrie” (1976). In the end, Sara has no choice but to walk back to her village while only wearing her swimming suit, and that certainly adds more humiliation to this terrible and infuriating situation of hers.

And then something quite more shocking happens. When Sara was cruelly tormented by those three girls, there was a man in the pool, but he simply left by his shabby van without helping her at all. We already know how dangerous he actually is, because his first scene in the film shows him targeting two certain persons when the pool is much more crowded before Sara’ routine swimming time. When Sara comes to meet him again, he happens to be doing something horrible to one of those three girls, but Sara chooses to do nothing while certainly terrified by this stranger, who leaves Sara alone then shows a bit of kindness before eventually driving to somewhere.

Sara does not say anything about her disturbing incident to anyone around her, but her village is soon disturbed by the stranger’s horrible deeds. After a body is found in the pool, the parents of those three girls are all the more anxious because their daughters still do not return, but Sara still tells nothing, even when a young local police officer instantly senses that there is something fishy about her.

Once she belatedly realizes that there is something which will incriminate her in one way or another, Sara gets herself more involved in the case, and that is how she comes across the stranger again later in the story. During their little tense moment, both she and the stranger begin to feel something mutual between them, and her following awakening as a woman makes her aware a lot more of how frustrating it is for her to live with her annoying parents.

Now the movie feels like a morbidly twisted variation of Beauty and the Beast, but the screenplay by director/writer Carlota Pereda, which is developed on the 2018 short film of hers, wisely does not spell out its heroine’s gradual emotional growth and development along the story. Still not knowing or understanding her emotional need that much, Sara unwisely lets herself drawn more to the stranger, and, of course, the stranger turns out to be much more monstrous than expected, though he seems to be really attracted to Sara like she is to him.

During the last act, the movie drives its deeply confused heroine further into the dark and unpleasant realm of horror and cruelty. Although this part lasts a bit too long in my trivial opinion, the movie keeps holding our attention as its heroine eventually finds herself on the verge of embracing the darkness of her potential lover, and we are surely served with a series of gruesome moments to make us wince more than once.

Regardless of whether you like the movie or not, you will never forget the fearless lead performance by Laura Galán. Yes, her overweight appearance is certainly the first thing to draw your attention, but Galán impresses us much more while never hesitating to delve into not only Sara’s vulnerability but also the deep anger and confusion behind her passive appearance. Although the movie firmly maintains its detached attitude to Sara throughout most of its running time, Pereda and her cinematographer Rita Noriega further accentuates Sara’s emotional isolation and frustration via deftly utilizing the screen ratio of 1.33:1, and that is one of the main reasons why the movie can constantly have us on edge while also letting us understand more of Sara’s emotional confusion.

On the whole, “Piggy” is definitely not something you can watch on Sunday afternoon, but it is worthwhile to watch as a competent genre film which strikes us hard with its strong mix of adolescent character drama and horror thriller. It is not entirely flawless (Many of supporting characters in the film including Sara’s parents are a bit too superficial to care, for example), but what Pereda and Galán achieve here is quite indelible to say the least, and I sincerely hope that both of them will keep going after this interesting breakout of theirs.

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