Releasing in 2018, Dead Pigs is the directorial debut of Cathy Yan who is most well known for her 2020 film Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Yet despite being released three years prior, Dead Pigs has only just reached the mainstream via the service MUBI, which is a damn shame as, unlike the aforementioned pigs, it is never dead in the water throughout its two-hour runtime.
Costume design and music take center stage here, elevating what would be a dreary drama into something a lot more fun while still retaining its key messages.
Dead Pigs follows a myriad of colourful characters who cross paths as thousands of dead pigs float down a river towards Shanghai. Based on true events, Yan not only shows the larger impact on normal people that this event caused but paints a perfect picture of class corruption within the region.It's clear from the start why Cathy Yan was brought onto Birds of Prey (I’m not repeating the full title every time), as despite this being her feature-length debut, a fantastic vision and style are already clear in her work. Costume design and music take center stage here, elevating what would be a dreary drama into something a lot more fun while still retaining its key messages.
The film follows several different characters and impressively Yan is able to give the majority of the time to truly shine and fall in love with them. Unique in every way you can think of, partly due to the fantastic outfits, it’s a joy to watch any one of them as they navigate a frankly quite dreary set of events. However, managing all these characters padded out the story a bit too much and a few times I did feel it drag slightly and the branching storylines took their time linking together at the end. If it, somehow, had been condensed to less than two hours, Dead Pigs could shine much brighter than it already does.
Fortunately though, while the journey may have been a bit longer than would have been liked, the ending makes up for it, and then some. Yan is able to spearhead towards the perfect third act in an emotional, weird, and touching way that makes you love these characters even more than before.
In most films, spontaneously breaking out in song and dance at the end wouldn’t work, but with Dead Pigs, it works perfectly, showing that no matter the hard times we may endure, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Featured image credit: IMDb, YouTube