Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Sundance Film Festival usually has a lot of unusual films from up-and-coming directors play at the festival. Sometimes they even have bigger named filmmakers or actors making their debut at the festival. John and the Hole is a film by a newer filmmaker, Pascual Sisto. It was mildly received at the festival back in January. It's coming out wide this week on VOD and in theaters. It's definitely not the most accessible film of the year. That's for sure.
John (Charlie Shotwell) is a young man who is a little shy and awkward. His parents, Brad (Michael C Hall, Dexter) and Anna (Jennifer Ehle, Contagion) wonder about him. He and his sister Laurie (Taissa Farmiga, The Nun) have a relatively good relationship, though. At school, he was somewhat of an outcast. His teachers don't know what to make of him. The other kids in school pick on him and beat him up. It's hard for everybody who is around him to understand his motivations and thought processes.
John is exploring his backyard one day and venturing further back into the woods where he finds a concrete hole in the ground. The previous residents who lived in his house were building it before they moved away. It was in the case of a bad storm or something of that nature. John asks his parents about it and they share what they know to the best of their ability. That's when this film takes an extreme turn for the worst for them and their daughter, John's sister.
John and the Hole eans comparisons to classic films from the 80s such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone, but also to some extent the great film from Lynne Ramsey, We Need to Talk About Kevin. John takes things in his short life to the extreme and it's odd that this is where he goes with his thought processes. He is definitely enjoying himself, that's for sure. He even brings one of his friends over to hang out with him. He never asks any questions though. The most obvious one is why are you driving your parents' car. John lies of course about where they have gone and everybody believes him.
The underlying theme of this film is John loves his parents and sister. He just needs some freedom and alone time and he goes to the most unusual lengths to get it. Kids are often misunderstood, but the bottom line is he went too far with the obsession to be alone and have his freedom. The film is a bit contrived on how he goes about getting it though. It was very convenient how things lined up for him in that way. In the real world, he would have probably been caught before what he did at the end. And his family's reaction was not what I expected at all.
When I was a kid I wasn't the most outgoing or friendly. God knows I didn't get along with my parents or siblings. I found my jam in movies, sports, books, and tv shows. That's what kids need to do, they just need to bide their time and eventually find their jam in life. Usually, by high school or college, kids find themselves and what they want to do with themselves. John still has a lot of learning to do and more growing up for sure. This film took this one scenario and accentuated it to the next level. I don't know how successful it was in getting its message across, but it sure was a wild ride in the process.
John and the Hole is now in theaters and on VOD.