The Movie Waffler First Look Review - SQUEAL | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - SQUEAL

squeal review
A man finds himself trapped on a farm where only a seemingly magical piglet can save him.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Aik Karapetian

Starring: Kevin Janssens, Laura Siliņa, Aigars Vilims, Normunds Griestiņš, Juris Bartkevičs, Guntis Pilsums

squeal poster

A droll narrator informs us (over the strains of some baroque chamber piece that recalls finer times) that the small piglet whose ploy for freedom we are currently enjoying, will soon be a catalyst in the journey of our incoming hero – Sam (Kevin Janssens).

Newly arrived in small-village Eastern Europe, Sam is on the search for a father he has never seen, and his chance encounter with our gorgeous runaway pig sends him on a trajectory that no one could have foreseen.

When the owner of said pig offers Sam a place to stay for the fast-encroaching night, he happily accepts after driving her and her pig back to their farm home.

squeal review

Her name is Kirke (Laura Silina) and after a pleasant evening with Sam she decides she wants to keep him and so, when her father arrives home, they strip him naked and chain him up in the barn to live with the pigs. Of course!

Sam’s ordeal is compounded by the fact that he can only speak English and so is truly surrounded by those he does not understand.

Jancuks (Normunds Griestins), the strange young man who visits every day from a neighboring farm where he is treated like a literal dog by his father and uncle, has set his sights on marrying Kirke and thus hates Sam on sight, sensing rightly that there is a degree of sexual tension between her and the foreigner chained up in the barn.

Kirke’s father Gustav (Aigars Vilims) dreads the time that his aging body will no longer allow him to tend to the farm and has decided Sam is the person to help him maintain it. He enlists him to manage the animals and sometimes, to Sam’s horror, kill them. A note of caution - I can tell fellow animal lovers that the deaths are not fully shown though there is a disturbing shot of a pig running while on fire - be warned.

squeal review

Over time, Sam starts to enjoy his time at the farm and grows to care for both Kirke and her father, even going so far as to bafflingly defend them when their well-being is threatened; but of course, there are escape attempts. Indeed, one of the attempts at escape presents us with my favourite shot in the movie - a bunch of free ranging pigs chilling in the woods.

And then the finale feels as if it comes mid movie and leaves me feeling unsatisfied.

Writer/director Aki Karapetian’s fourth feature film is a strange one, written like an old school fairytale with a story at its centre that doesn’t shy away from the ugliness in life but views it with a more rosy glow than usual. Violence is here, death and fear, but also a delightful embrace of whimsy and a talking piglet who would melt even the hardest heart.

The cinematography makes great use of the lush landscape, and the mud and flies feel almost visceral, which accentuates the pastoral vibe; for an indie this is a nicely cinematic and professional looking movie. The music adds a flourish of pomp to an otherwise squalid tale, and I enjoyed that juxtaposition.

squeal review

I can’t decide if I liked or didn’t like the narrator; the seemingly Australian voice was somewhat jarring with this deeply Eastern European film, but at the same time it wasn’t overly intrusive and added to the fairytale feel of the movie.

Commenting on the dehumanising of those we enslave and the disturbing phenomenon of Stockholm syndrome, it doesn’t all come together as a satisfying whole, and in the end I’m unsure exactly what it was trying to say. Perhaps a fairytale about the desire for purpose and the need to embrace it wherever it appears? Perhaps just a cautionary film about a man who trusted the wrong stranger. Whatever its reasons for existing, I do wish I had enjoyed it more. This is not a bad film by any stretch; it just isn’t for me.

This absurd and strange tale is not always successful, and it did struggle to hold my attention, but I will always appreciate and love a talking pig.

Squeal is on US VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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