Movie Review – Piggy

Piggy (2022)
Written & Directed by Carlota Pereda

Being fat is not fun sometimes. As a fat person growing up in a fatphobic culture, I have struggled with my body image. I know it’s far worse for women than me. Experiencing a disconnect between body and mind can be a horribly traumatizing experience. Piggy explores a terrifying weekend in one fat girl’s life when she becomes entangled in the murder spree of a serial killer in her small Spanish hometown. Much like Julia Ducournau’s work on Raw and Titane, this movie seeks to tell an intensely violent story while exploring issues surrounding being fat and being a woman.

Sara (Laura Galán) spends most of her time studying for school at her parents’ butcher shop in the town square. The girls her age torment her online and stealthily when the adults are around, making sure Sara knows how ugly & undesirable they think she is. When she finally gets a moment of respite on a festival weekend, the girl walks to the canal, a popular place to swim, and dives in. Some girls come by and ridicule Sara as she tries to hide while clad only in a bikini. There’s someone else there, a Stranger (Richard Holmes) who seems to sympathize with Sara. That sense of connection intensifies when she is walking home and comes across the Stranger’s van driving away, one of the girl’s bloody hands touching the windows in the back as if a cry for help. Bodies are found, and the manhunt begins with Sara feigning ignorance and trying to lie about where she was. 

The film rests on the back of Laura Galan’s performance, and she nails it. The young woman is compelling as both the timid girl trying to be unseen and the fount of rage she becomes by the film’s conclusion. You never doubt this transition once because Galan and the script let it develop over time, with no sudden unrealistic change in behavior. There’s also an avalanche of conflict within this character. Who among us wouldn’t feel some pride if another person were willing to slaughter our haters? While that immediate sense of power would be intoxicating, just like Sara, reality would set in, and we would understand that this was wrong. We would have to do what we could to make it stop.

This moral dilemma fuels the movie’s momentum. With each wrinkle Sara is dealt, she digs her hole a little deeper, tells another lie, and hides another piece of evidence. The film asks us what we would do, and I find it hard to think I wouldn’t do what Sara does in position. She’s a child, who feels rejected by her community, so despite the guilt, it’s easier to force yourself to become invisible again. But this story is about being thrust out of that obscurity, forced to be seen and embrace yourself. Sara’s allyship is ultimately with the very girls that mocked her. She clearly understands that in the hierarchy of power, they are all women, and therefore the murders affect her negatively, even if they are being done out of a twisted sense of “love.” The Stranger doesn’t love Sara because he wouldn’t be making her go through this if he did.

Director Carlota Pereda isn’t hiding her inspirations. This movie is straight from the Hitchcock thriller subgenre, without his creepy misogynistic undertones. It also owes a lot to the work of Claire Denis. Pereda cites the underrated Trouble Every Day as guiding her while making the film. On a broader scale, this is a movie in the tradition of all the slashers and their final girls: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, etc. I found it similar to Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger By The Lake, the French queer thriller that doesn’t hold back on the tension or the sex. Piggy does refrain from becoming sexually gratuitous though it’s not afraid of presenting Galan’s body without filters. Her scene in the bikini is undoubtedly bold, and it’s admirable that the actress shows herself without shame. In American cinema, I can’t imagine a fat woman’s body being put on display for anything other than a cruel joke. Here she is presented as a beautiful person, the camera does not pass the judgments her awful peers do.

There are also some excellent surreal elements here; it’s not just a gritty slasher. A bull escapes a running that is part of the seasonal festival, and Sara crosses paths with him in the woods at night. Imagery in the butcher shop produces some funny juxtapositions in the story. A police dog barks incessantly at Sara every time she passes it, the beating heart under the floorboards if you will. The film’s conclusion aptly takes place in a slaughterhouse, referring back to the opening image of a hog’s body hung up in the cooler; this time, it’s the two final victims of the Stranger. Sara loses something of herself in this last fight, giving us a striking image for the finale: a young girl in her bedclothes, caked in dried browning blood, standing on a stretch of highway. It’s a declaration of sorts for young Galan; this is an acting talent to keep an eye on.

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