...Is almost dystopian and dreamlike.
JOHN AND THE HOLE (2021)
As my first movie after a brief hiatus, I was ready to dive into the wild and suspenseful journey I anticipated John and the Hole to be. You can imagine my surprise when I was ready to turn it off after fifteen minutes. I’ll keep this short because I’d like to refrain from giving this movie further thought as soon as possible.
First and foremost, this film is a very obvious combination of the two famous “Kevin” centric movies, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Home Alone. However, what it reminded me of the most is 1976’s The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, a favorite film of mine that centers around a thirteen year old girl whose father is not present, and she lives on her own like a full adult. The most intriguing thing about it is how rooted in reality it feels.
John and the Hole, however, is almost dystopian and dreamlike. There are times where I wondered if the filmmakers have ever met modern 13 year olds, since they act so cartoonish and downright suspicious. With strange cutaways to a different child struggling with similar yet worse growing pains. I have a hunch this aspect of the film is part of John’s psyche, but one nice thing about the movie is that it ultimately lets you decide, whether intentional or not.
John is a thirteen year old boy with the curiosity of adulthood and what it will mean for him. As any normal adolescent does, he drugs his family and drags them into a hole that was an old plot for a bunker. There really is no rhyme or reason explicitly given for his actions other than he wants to know what it’s like to be on his own as an adult. The dialogue falls flat, the character motivations never seem to come to fruition, and the hole isn’t even that deep.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Our lead John, played by Charlie Shotwell, carried the film well for what little he was offered, direction wise. John has no distinct personality and his performance banks on being silent and unmotivated. It was great to see Taissa Farmiga acting in full force again. I loved her performance, as she felt like the only one that bore any relation to John as a family member. The parents on the other hand, felt extremely disconnected, but I have to assume that was the whole point of John’s mental unravelling. I have to assume a lot of things, because the movie never lets on what it’s trying to say, if anything. Michael C. Hall’s performance as the dad specifically threw me off because at times his dialogue and delivery felt like I was listening to a sim. He expressed strange sporadic behavior in ways that never really helped me understand him as a character.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Just my two cents: Cinematography is fine. Probably the strongest point of the film, technically. But one thing I really can’t get over is the decision to shoot in 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s not motivated at all, and I don’t know what it’s supposed to make me think. You have to be pretty bold to make a decision like that, because it can so easily come off as pretentious. It’s like making a movie in balck and white for ‘aesthetic’ reasons. It’s not really a reason at all. 4:3 works in a movie like Mid90s, because all the explanation you need is in the title. Even though I don’t love that movie either, it’s aspect ratio is appropriate for it.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
This film is extremely quiet and lacking in atmospheric score in a number of places. It’s got a bit of a molecular techno sound to it at times, but it’s never overbearing enough you notice it. The sound design is tight, which is good for a movie with little dialogue. It relies a lot on atmosphere, and the sound design sells the setting decently well. I always enjoy when films start out on the first line of dialogue with the opening logos, before we even see the characters. It worked really well here because it wasn’t just a single word or syllable with a smash cut to character, it was almost a full conversation before we see who is talking. If nothing else, it adds a bit of style to an otherwise dull scenario.
There’s always something fascinating to me about films that depict evil children. There are many societal parallels you can draw while watching this, but it feels more like a testament to John as a character and his deteriorating mental health. I don’t think the film is trying to send off smoke signals to the world that this is how all kids are going to act if they’re spoiled. I think it’s just trying really hard to seem different. John and the Hole is now available to rent on Prime, Google Play Store, and Apple TV.