As violent thrillers go, Piggy is one for the books. There’s a grittiness at work that could tap into every parent’s worst fears and that’s before we even discuss the protagonist that carries the film with honesty, vulnerability, and a growing strength that seems to manifest before our eyes.
Laura Galán plays Sara, an overweight teen living in a small village in Spain where the locals always feel the need to talk about everything. The everyday life is mundane and a trio of popular girls decide to break their boredom by constantly bullying Sara, calling her things like "weirdo" and "fatso," and they don’t stop there as they post pictures of Sara’s family hashtagging them as “the three pigs.” As if things weren’t bad enough, Sara’s own family are negligent, quickly distracted from their daughter’s obvious pain. We as an audience, see it all. Sara’s mother (Carmen Machi) rushes to criticize her daughter despite her own supposed flaws that Sara points out in one of the film's more heated family discussions. Julián Valcárcel plays the father who is lacking a will to insert himself in issues which, as the film shows, can be just as damaging to the household, although, he does show some kindness towards his children.
You can feel the literal heat in this brightly lit film. When we hear flies buzzing in the family butcher shop, we realize we’re in for a bloody ride. Sara attempts to swim at the local pool with no one else around when the bullies arrive, nearly drowning her and stealing her clothes. As Sara walks back in shame she comes upon a van; the three bullies are being kidnapped by a stranger (Richard Holmes) and crying out for help.
Sara’s pain and turmoil is palpable. She’s not a bad person but after nearly dying herself, has difficulty deciding what the right thing to do is. She tries to keep secrets, eventually determined to redeem herself by looking for the three girls herself, often being involved in cat & mouse games with others trying to do the same. Writer-director Carlota Pereda wisely doesn’t let Sara become the perfect protagonist. She’s often caught, her lies are found out or flimsy, and when the kidnapper shows her simple kindness, an unsettling bit of grooming is on display in a way that feels realistic. Sara’s self-image and body issues don’t simply evaporate but amp up the pain of the tale.
Fans of teenage revenge tales like Carrie will enjoy this film. The most reluctant of the trio of bullies Claudia (Irene Ferreiro), is a distant cousin of the characters from Carrie, Sue Snell and her boyfriend an even more distant cousin of Tommy Ross. The citizens of the town discuss events like the Running of the Bulls and festivities even as violent things are happening around them. Pereda and her cinematographer Rita Noriega shoot three different types of sets with ease; the tight spaces of Sara’s house, the more open streets of the village, and the wide shots of fields and forests, with relative ease.
Towards the end of the film, the story reaches the natural finish line often implemented by torture-porn films and dips a toe in that pool while still remaining true to what it is. Sara’s life has been turned upside down, and Galán keeps everything grounded. The rest of the cast rises to the occasion with Machi being a clear standout and the town feels lived-in. This is an impressive feature debut that is as thrilling as it is heartbreaking.
Before becoming a feature film, Piggy was first shot as a horror short and is available to watch here on ALTER:
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