Sundance Review: “John And The Hole”

Year: 2021
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Director: Pascual Sisto
Writer: Nicolás Glacobone
Stars: Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, Taissa Farmiga

By Morgan Roberts

“John and the Hole” (2021) is a film that possesses a lot of holes itself. The film follows John (Charlie Shotwell) is a privileged teenager living with his parents (Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle) and older sister (Taissa Farmiga). John is introduced as a bit of an outsider, a recluse, and just plain odd. So when John drugs his family and then puts them in a giant hole he discovered in the woods by his house, that just feels like a natural progression.

The film has an interesting premise, but its execution is lacklustre. It left me with so many questions. To begin with, John is a twig of a young man, and yet somehow he manages to drag his entire family through their house and through the woods in order to put them into the hole. Then, he is able to miraculously get them into this giant hole without breaking their necks or herniating a disc or two.

Charlie Shotwell appears in John and the Hole by Pascual Sisto, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Paul Özgür. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

From here, John enjoys “adulthood.” He drives to the bank, makes huge cash withdrawals, and purchases new TVs and all the junk food he wants. Now, this leads to more questions. How did the bank not freeze the account? How was this very young looking person not pulled over for driving without a license? Every part of John’s story is preposterous and, unfortunately, that is the bulk of our film. It seems like some sort of fantasy someone had so they decided to turn into a film without considering any of the logistics or necessary beats to meet in the plot.

“Every part of John’s story is preposterous and, unfortunately, that is the bulk of our film.”

The film would be far more interesting if we were spending more time with his family in the abandoned bunker they are trapped in. It was fascinating to watch them lash out at John when he first appears with food, to their varying degrees of desperation to get out, and then, one by one, their acceptance of their fate. Hall, Ehle, and Farmiga are perfect together. They work naturally, and are believable as a family unit which is put into a harrowing situation. These moments were so fascinating as well as being well-executed. If only their perspectives were what grounded the film. We would have been given a really interesting premise from the proper viewpoint.

Instead, we are forced to follow an entitled white kid who has decided to torment his family for no particularly good reason. The film drags on as the consequences are not properly established, and the stakes become unclear. As the film concludes, it leaves you hollow due to its inability to provide any closure as we do not feel this situation ever changed anything.

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