August 6th, 2021
MOVIE: JOHN AND THE HOLE
STARRING: CHARLIE SHOTWELL, MICHAEL C. HALL, JENNIFER EHLE, TASSIA FARMIGA
DIRECTED BY: PASCUAL SISTO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The way to describe John and the Hole is that it’s a provocative film. I say provocative because clearly the director’s objective is to provoke a reaction out of the audience and if that’s what he’s going for then he will get it. Sadly, the only emotion provoked from me is anger and frustration. More of the former than the later. This is a movie about a selfish, sociopathic, and outright nasty child, who drugs his parents and sister, and puts them into an unfinished bunker hole in the woods behind his home. His reasoning behind this? I don’t know? I guess he wants to see what happens and through this angsty teens human study, it is the audience that is forced to witness this shity kid have his way, making the entire experience of John and the Hole incredibly miserable.
The direction is by Pascual Sisto, his directorial debut, with the script written by Nicolas Giacobone. It’s obvious these two have taken a liking to the works of Yorgos Lanthimos, specifically a film like Dogtooth, where the characters, and their actions are borderline inhumane. The narrative of this film is what the title says. John (Charlie Shotwell) is a 13-year old kid, living at home with his father Brad (Michael C. Hall), mother Anna (Jennifer Ehle), and older sister Laurie (Taissa Farmiga). He finds this bunker hole in the woods and proceeds to steal his mothers medication, drug his family members and put them down into the hole. This allows John to have the house and his family credit cards to himself, taking money out of ATM’s, driving his dad’s car, playing video games, and occasionally checking in on his family if he feels like it. The reason behind all of this? Not much of an answer to tell, I guess this strange kid felt like doing this, but it’s not much fun for anyone involved.
I’m not arguing that John and the Hole needs to be fun and I certainly am aware of when a director is trying to do something unique. This movie succeeds at that, with a narrative that I will remember in all of 2021, but it’s not for the right reasons. This is a main character that I hated, an eccentric kid, possibly on the spectrum in some way, but lacking in empathy, or any emotion, making the entire experience of John and the Hole unpleasant. Just this week I reviewed Leos Carax Annette, which is a strange, and provocative musical, but that worked for me from start to finish. Where movies such as The Lobster or a film such as David Croenenberg’s Cosmopolis, there may be strange messaging, or narrative structure, yet we can see the point of it all. I’m not sure if director Sisto makes sense out of anything we experience, which is why this movie suffers drastically.
Where you might think that John and the Hole is building to a greater purpose, the character of John continues to double down. He’s consistently lying to any unexpected visitors about his families whereabouts, invites his friend over for video games and playing a demented game where they “try to drown each other” in the pool, and then he persists in standing above his family in the hole, as if to torture at his status of the higher ground. The only logical response is to feel empathy for the family at the bottom of the hole and pray that the lead character gets what he deserves.
I wouldn’t even claim that John and the Hole is a failed film. The director succeeds at what he’s trying to convey, telling the story of a kid who wants to treat his family like wounded dogs, lying next to an open can of Pedigree. It’s a tortured and incredibly cold experience in every facet. The best result for a movie such as John and the Hole is that director Pascual Sisto might be an artist to keep an eye on in the future, but this movie should just be buried into a deep deep dark hole, never to be found again.
JOHN AND THE HOLE IS IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND FRIDAY AUGUST 6TH
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady