John and the Hole

A strange and moody film by first-time feature film director Pascual Sisto. Despite his inexperience, Sisto has earned some eyes on his previous work having directed a short and tv episode. By none other than Variety he was named this year as one of the 10 directors to watch. Now that he has some attention there has to be some follow-through. Now John and the Hole is not exactly the type of film which will have people rushing to the theatre to see it, but that does not mean that it is not a worthy watch. It is though aimed at a particular type of film viewer.

The psychological coming of age slow burner of a thriller is an adaptation of a short story titled El Pozo by author and Oscar winner Nicolas Giacobone. Filled with dark humour it explores the issues of freedom and adulthood with a twist. Or rather a pretty twisted 13-year-old boy at the center of it all.

A rather normal-seeming family living a comfortable life. Parents Brad (Michael C. Hall – from television’s Dexter) and Anna (Jennifer Ehle – Zero Dark Thirty, Fifty Shades Freed) and teenagers John (Charlie Shotwell – Captain Fantastic, All the Money in the World) and Laurie (Taissa Farmiga – from television’s American Horror Story) live in a beautiful house, have a pool and a gardener along with all they seem to want.

Without any real hint of what he has in mind, John drugs and dumps his parents and older sister down a hole, which was meant to be a shelter, he finds one day in the woods. We soon see what he has in mind is freedom. The freedom to live life as he wishes, make his own decisions. So he lies to all those wondering where his family is and cooks his own meals, drives his father’s car, fires the gardener, and invites his friend over. The question becomes whether he will ever let his family out of the hole?

A totally unsettling film that gains its atmosphere largely by what is not said. John does not speak much though he does not really have to as his actions speak volumes. Whether it is putting his family down a hole or almost drowning his friend in the pool, he is obviously a disturbed teen. Even a sociopath who seems to have no empathy or visible feelings even.

While it is disturbing to watch it does grab you with its crisp visuals and quiet but uncomfortable nature. Just go along with the absurd nature of the storytelling and you will enjoy it.

Gathering steam as part of the Official Selection of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival then the U.S. Dramatic Competition of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, John and the Hole is now being released in theatres along with wherever films can be rented by IFC Films.

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