[Sundance Review] JOHN AND THE HOLE
Charlie Shotwell in JOHN AND THE HOLE l Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Paul Özgür.
What if instead of being left behind, Kevin chose to put his family somewhere so he can live it up because he’s bored and wants to be an adult? JOHN AND THE HOLE, despite some good acting, is one of the most tiresome stories of a bored angsty white kid acting up. But it’s also a lack of something more that makes this film subpar. It does not go beyond, kid bored and feeling he can live and experience adulthood without his family so decides to dump them down a hole.

The acting all around, especially Charlie Shotwell as John, is great. But simultaneously he reminiscent of a young talented Mr. Ripley—at least the Matt Damon remake—that will sob as he does harm. John is already an awkward kid and he only seems particularly animated when his friend stays over and Charlie Shotwell does a superb job of playing him. Audiences will alternate between horror and wondering what is wrong with this kid. Jennifer Ehle, Michael C. Hall, and Taissa Farmiga do a good job as well as his mother, father, and sister respectively. Unfortunately, there’s not enough depth here to suss out any meaningful story.

Granted this is a story within a story; however, even that is nonsensical because we have no understanding of what is going on with the other family or why beyond what we are briefly shown. The mother is telling the story of John to her 12-year-old daughter and we are given no context as to whether there’s a connection beyond the mother wanting the daughter to grow up.

Directed by Pascual Sisto and written by Nicolás Giacobone, the directing and story feel mismatched as one is far better than the other. While I loved the directing, including aerial and angled shots, it’s wasted on this film, just like the actors. JOHN AND THE HOLE could have been a critique on white boredom and their need to create conflict to feel something because honestly, this is some white ish and apathy seems more common among those in privileged lifestyles. Most of us don’t have time for boredom at that level and if we do we damn sure are able to come up with other outlets.

If anything, this could be a “how much can a privileged white kid get away with?” study. The kid drives around with his parent’s car, withdraws money from the atm without being stopped or pulled over despite looking like a kid. A white lady comes to the house and is told by the sociopathic kid that the whole family took off and he chose to stay so she just leaves and doesn’t call the cops. When the white lady does call the cops—only after a second visit and hearing the mom’s phone ring in the house—one cop shows up and just walks around the house then leaves. A white gardener drugged by a white kid passes out, wakes up, and doesn’t suspect that the kid clearly drugged him. Then later doesn’t suspect anything when the kid is home alone and the kid offers him a “drink”. Cops clearly never return. This is a trip into white boredom that doesn’t elevate beyond and, if we wanted that, we could look at the news to hear about how they suffer so much in their white middle/upper-class life.

At almost 2 hours long, JOHN AND THE HOLE could’ve added more about the kid struggling or it could’ve committed to something darker and cut out a lot, especially that mother/daughter part which feels unnecessary, jarring, and intrusive. Instead, there’s not much difference between the ending here or the ending of Home Alone complete with someone apologizing. They filled the hole for this script and left it all on the surface. What you see is what you get and it ain’t much. The most positive thing I can say about this movie is that it will inspire jokes, maybe memes, and you will feel left out of the “Oh my god, have you seen JOHN AND THE HOLE” conversations. So, I kind of recommend it for that.

JOHN AND THE HOLE had its world premiere on January 29 at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

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