JOHN AND THE HOLE (2021) Reviews and now with first trailer

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John and the Hole is a 2021 coming of age psychological thriller about a boy who holds his family captive in a hole in the ground.

Directed by Pascual Sisto from a screenplay written by Nicolás Giacobone, the Mutressa Movies production stars Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle and Taissa Farmiga.

“Don’t expect a clear connection between the two tales, apart from a pitch-black vignette featuring the two that says more about the messy cruelty of growing up than the A-story attempts in the other 100 minutes. All it ends up telling you is that the audience has to put in more interpretive heavy lifting than the screenplay demands, which is a major frustration for a concept so gruesomely intriguing.” AwardsWatch

“It’s no small thing to hook your audience, but within the first ten minutes, it becomes painfully obvious that Sisto doesn’t know what to do once he has us, so he hopes that if his film is brooding enough, we’ll think it’s thoughtful. Instead, I spent the next 90 minutes wishing I were in a hole rather than this interminable slog.” Collider

“This dark coming-of-age thriller coasts along based on its high-concept premise that is frankly unsatisfying if the viewer focuses solely on John. The key to unlocking ‘John and the Hole,’ however, lies in the viewer’s ability to truly empathize with John’s family, and their daily life with a family member like John.” Escape into Film

” …Nicolás Giacobone, who adapted his own nine-page story into this film’s screenplay, hasn’t lost his abiding love of twisted meaninglessness that lurches around straining for profundity. While its big influences are stellar — Haneke and Lanthimos, twin gods of the cold absurd, loom large — John and the Hole mistakes rigid construction for substance; it simply falls down and can’t get back up.” The Film Experience

“Sisto’s John and the Hole is a fascinating slow-burn, mind-f*ck thriller in addition to the crazy concept of a kid throwing his family into a hole. Masterfully slick, unsettling filmmaking builds this film into something more profound than it seems at first glance. It’s one of these films that is going to be endlessly divisive just because it’s so ambiguous and creepy.” First Showing

” …nothing about the subplot is meaningful or satisfactory in any way. It’s 15 minutes of extra fluff that could be cut entirely. With that in mind, there are now two pointless and relatively on involving stories being told in John and the Hole. Charlie Shotwell is terrific at conveying that the teenager is a frightening sociopathic monster, but that’s all the film has going for it.” Flickering Myth

As a calling card, Sisto shows an assured hand [….] (although his decision to use a 4:3 aspect ratio never manages to be anything but an inconsequential and frequently overused gimmick). For now, he’s stuck dressing up what is revealed to be nothing much of anything, a hole that’s been diligently dug but remains completely empty.” The Guardian

“Its observation of the festering dysfunction tucked beneath the neat façade of the privileged American family is amply compelling even if there’s a slight hollowness to the film that’s not uncommon with European directors exploring this territory. And the puzzle-like aspect of making the main narrative a story within the framing device of another family coming unstuck is thematic overkill that doesn’t really work.” The Hollywood Reporter

“Despite its shortcomings, John and the Hole shows enough restraint and thematic sophistication to indicate strong potential for Sisto behind the camera […] It’s not the best “creepy kid” movie out there, but it’s certainly the rare one to double as a bonafide coming-of-age story, as John come to terms with a truth he can’t escape: There’s no safe shortcut to adulthood, but plenty of ways to screw it up.” IndieWire
“With a screenplay by Academy Award-winner Nicolás Giacobone, themes of isolation, skewering the upper class, and the toxic effects of individualism are fully realized. In particular, money is constantly displayed as a central theme of adult relationships. A subplot with one of my favorite underused actors, Georgia Lyman, is intentionally confusing but important nonetheless.” Irish Film Critic

“A strange tale of swapping power dynamics and unexpected connection, when the film is good, it’s great. It’s hard not to feel held at arm’s length, however, wanting to embrace what’s happening but not being fully able to. It’s the small, almost missable, moments that are the most chilling.” Jason McFiggins

“If you think you know where John and the Hole is headed, you’re probably right. Yet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the film for what it is – a well-crafted, wonderfully disquieting tale whose narrative structure may not excel, but that is guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.” Loud and Clear

John and the Hole has an intriguing plot even if it doesn’t have a lot of direction and know what genre it is. The ambiguous ending might leave many wanting more, but it is still a great film overall. ” Mama’s Geeky

“The phenomenal performances from everyone involved (and I genuinely mean everyone), the exquisite camera work, and the addictive score all add to the incredibly suspenseful atmosphere that kept me invested until the very last second.” MSB Reviews

“An odd and strange film that works on some levels, and falls apart on others. Some plots are out of focus, but the duality between the family of learning to be an adult vs learning to be a kid worked in a twisted and manic way. A truly ambiguous film that is a lot to unpack…” Music City Drive-In

John and the Hole doesn’t always gel and a more focused lane would’ve yielded stronger results but Shotwell brings a fascinating edge to his John, and his need to compartmentalize trauma […] There’s plenty to unearth and tons of questions left on the table, but Sisto expertly toys with the confines of ambiguity to deliver something worth digging into.” The Only Critic

“Sisto’s movie is defiantly removed from emotion and recognizable human behavior. It’s a thought experiment, punctuated with even more bizarre scenes involving a mother and daughter unrelated to John’s family  […] There are effective scenes […] but the film grows more frustrating with the sense that it has nowhere to go.”

” …includes an unnecessary failure of a subplot about a mother telling her little girl a version of John’s story, and it’s an ineffective distraction that steals from the strength of the themes. Despite that major stumble, John and the Hole has some big ideas that are both fascinating and awful, but I still found the film to be a bit more frustrating than thought-provoking.” Screen Zealots

“The film made by director Pascual Sisto is for pondering rather than quick decisions on how one feels about it, and its characters. For much of its running time, that works to its advantage. And then, the ending comes, and it feels like the bottom falls out, but it doesn’t derail the finished film but leaves you with more to think about.” Sonic Cinema

John and the Hole doesn’t give easy answers and is certainly a challenging watch. Shotwell is superb as the troubled youth seemingly trapped in a life that is cosy, comfortable, and prosperous […] John and the Hole isn’t a film you’d choose for a popcorn-munching treat, but for the more cerebral evening, it’s worth checking out.” Starburst

“There is plenty to commend the technical and performance aspects of John and the Hole. Still, the storytelling choices and structure fill in the intriguing gaps with narrative quicksand, into which the film’s potential slowly sinks.” Take One

“It’s calculated and precise and meticulously constructed in a way that will be of considerable interest to audiences who appreciate stories that unsettle, and those who recognize the precision of Sisto’s approach. Both in style and psychology, this arm’s-length, deliberately paced film resists sensationalism, even as it relates a potentially freaky situation…” Variety

Release date:

IFC Films released John and the Hole theatrically in select locations and On-Demand on August 6, 2021.

Cast and characters:
Pamela Jayne Morgan … Teacher
Charlie Shotwell … John
Michael C. Hall … Brad
Jennifer Ehle … Anna
Taissa Farmiga … Laurie
Lucien Spelman … Charles
Georgia Lyman … Gloria
Samantha LeBretton … Lily
Tamara Hickey … Paula
Ben O’Brien … Peter
Elijah Ungvary … Tennis Instructor

Technical details:
98 minutes
Aspect ratio: 4:3

John and the Hole was completed in time for Cannes 2020 but the pandemic meant its release was delayed.


Critics’ aggregated rating:

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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