- Movie Rating -

John and the Hole (2020)

| August 29, 2021

[This review is part of my ongoing coverage of the films screened at Birmingham Alabama’s 23rd Annual Sidewalk Film Festival]

John and the Hole
is a movie with a lot of questions that need to be answered.  Yet, I’m afraid that when the story is finally concluded, the answers don’t present themselves.  Here is a potentially good movie that is established with a curious plot that almost required – nay demands – some sort of connection at its conclusion, but it comes up with dry air and a sense that the director didn’t want to answer the questions to the questions he raises.

The director is Pasquel Sisto, a visual artist who creates a brilliant tapestry of teen angst, over-privilege and socio-pathic behaviors.  His film has brilliant quiet spaces, a setting of suburban isolation and the new world of total technological emersion fused with the caverns of adolescence.  It tells the story of a seemingly ordinary young kid named John (Charles Shotwell) whose family is wealthy upper-class, but resoundingly distant.  Theirs is the American household in which the bond between parent and child is mostly couched in extra-curricular activities, timetables and fussing about the potential for college.  Emotional bonding, we sense, will come too late.

John wants a break from this.  His typical kid-mind wants to immerse himself in his comfort food, his video games and an endless supply of cash.  He gets these things by engaging in a plan that no child on the face of the planet would or could ever put into action.  On his parent’s vast and undeveloped property, he finds a deep hole lined with concrete, the long-abandoned leftover result of an unfinished storm shelter.  It gives him a brainstorm.  He drugs his parents and his older sister and places them in the hole, which is too deep to escape.  They wake up the next morning and can’t figure out their predicament.  John quickly presents himself but offers no explanation as to why he is doing this.  He simply walks away and leaves them baffled.

Returning home, John goes on a personal spending spree – video games, junk food, a new flat-screen, his father’s car.  He has all the luxuries he could possibly want.  Occasionally he returns to the hole to offer his family food, but again, no explanation.  The story is built with a sense of style.  We never get the sense that John is mentally ill or that he has any kind of breakdown, which makes his plan all the creepier – he’s just doing it because he wants to. 

The problem, for me, is that Sisto needed to bring the movie to a conclusion.  I’m not asking for a dossier; I’m just asking for a more satisfying ending.  The movie builds up to a closing moment that left me rather frustrated.  There would be punishments, possibly legal actions, maybe even family therapy, but it isn’t here.  The movie closes on a scene of quiet family bliss that I found confusing and rather frustrating.  It’s like a joke without a punchline, a story that badly needs an epilogue.  Something.

Maybe I sound too much like an American moviegoer.  Maybe I’m asking for closed doors.  Maybe Sisto is asking us to draw our own conclusions, but personally, I wasn’t willing to play the game.  The movie builds such a special narrative, such interesting ideas and then draws to an ending that really isn’t an ending.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2020) View IMDB Filed in: Drama