Review: John and the Hole!
John and the Hole sounds very nervousing for the film’s title due to suspense and horror themes being brought up from the director and that main character in the film. This film is based on the story called El Pozo, written by Nicolás Giacobone, and became the most anticipated film for a Sundance Film Festival entry. The film features the ensemble cast of Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, and Taissa Farmiga.
John and the Hole centers on a boy named John who discovers a hole in the backyard and traps his parents in there while exploring the unsettling reality of freedom and independence at his home. While doing so, he soon learns what it is like to be an adult and growing up as an adult.
Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic) receives his main protagonist role as John, the boy who has discovered a large hole in the back of his house. With the family characters being given on limited roles, Shotwell steals the spotlight to see how anyone can fully understand what are the messages of living adult life throughout the film, which is totally unexpected from such a protagonist-centered narrative. However, there are some “wait, that's illegal” moments with him drugging and trapping parents that seem a little confused and somewhat low while experiencing cruelty and anxiety right there. Feels like the director has put much tolerance on the story, but he wants his movie to be a comedy one, rather than a drama-thriller film.
Actors Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jennifer Ehle (BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice), and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) are really formidable for the John’s family characters, transforming a small bunker into the most interesting place in the film due to their fascinating interactions. Seeing their characters trying to stay sane proved to be surprisingly and hilariously entertaining. Technically, Paul Özgür's cinematography offers some memorable shots that elevate a few particular sequences, but it's Caterina Barbieri's unique score that really generates the tense, but curious environment, from the very beginning to the very end.
John and the Hole serves as Pascual Sisto’s directorial debut. Sisto tackles every scene and every direction he has put for the cast and the crew. With a screenplay written by Oscar winner Nicolás Giacobone (Birdman), the nature-exploring themes of isolation, skewering the upper class of adulthood, and the toxic effects of individualism are fully and materially realized. In his particular manner, he knows that money and facing adulthood become the essence of growing up and are constantly displayed as a central theme of adult relationships, child relationships, and human responsibilities.
John and the Hole is an ok film, but somewhat lies in the “average” town. It’s a little bit too hollow and a little too gritty for the storyline to be followed. Though, the director and the four main cast have mastered themselves on the pure levels of entertainment. I actually saw this as part of the Oak Cliff Film Festival. And despite what the audience and critics say about this film, John and the Hole is yet another ambiguous 98-minute movie entry in this year's edition of Sundance, but this time, it actually comes close to satisfying me. I can’t argue more, but I think it’s going to be a tough challenge to watch once you pick this movie up in theaters or on digital.
(Review by Henry Pham)