Piggy (Cerdita) (2022) review at Fantasia 2022

Carlota Pereda’s pink-tinted, porcine feature debut lets adolescence, appetite & animality play out in a small-town butcher’s and a slaughterhouse

piggy

Pink is a colour associated with girlishness, and with pigs. The opening credits of writer/director Carlota Pereda’s feature debut Piggy (Cerdita) are pink, to match the colour of its teenaged (anti)heroine’s trainers – yet the film also begins with the image of a pig’s head being placed on a hook, and the walls of the butcher’s shop where Sara (Laura Galán) lives and sometimes works with her father Tómas (Julián Valcárel) and overbearing mother Asun (Carmen Machi) are also painted pink to emphasise their porcine connections.

The title is in fact a cruel nickname given to Sara by her fat-shaming peers, who relentlessly persecute her online, as well as bullying her both psychologically and physically whenever she steps out of the store. This is a very difficult period in the life of Sara, embarrassed by her parents, traumatised by casually dehumanising insults from all sides, driven by different kinds of carnal desire, and trying to take personal shape in a changing body that does not always feel her own.

In this Spanish village, Sara’s awkward coming of age is set against the rampages of an escaped bull and a serial killer (Richard Holmes), together creating panic and chaos in the otherwise sleepy community. As Sara repeatedly crosses paths with both beast and man, it is clear that their destructive trajectories are running parallel to her own, and might just drag her under.

Though Sara knows that the killer has abducted her chief tormentors (Claudia Salas, Irene Ferreiro, Camille Aguilar), she had been, a short time earlier, nearly drowned by these three girls, her pleas for help ignored, and so now her own righteous indignation – her rage – at their behaviour keeps her from telling anyone what has happened to them. This places Sara in an uneasy complicity with the murderer, who recognises in Sara a complement to his own outsider status – and an undeniably erotic frisson builds between this appetitive young woman and the only person who seems happy to feed her errant cravings rather than ridicule them.

Piggy is a parochial tale of bestiality and butchery, as our put-upon protagonist, flirting uneasily with her own inner monstrousness, must choose whether to keep following a psychokiller on his path of slaughter, or to pull back from the edge before it is too late and to act responsibly, doing unto others as they have absolutely failed to do unto her.

This little piggy will end up having to play out her rites of passage, and her moral cruces, in the swine chutes and on the killing floors of an abandoned abattoir – a location that, like the film’s title, reduces Sara’s rough adolescence to raw animality, and everyone to meat. Sara may constantly be mocked for her size and supposed ugliness, but no one emerges from this looking pretty, as small-town mores are put on the carving board, and things come out more blood-stained than rose-tinted.

Piggy (Cerdita) had its Quebec première at Fantasia 2022. Read more reviews here