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  John and the Hole Just Like The Grown-Ups Do
Year: 2021
Director: Pascual Sisto
Stars: Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, Taissa Farmiga, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Lucien Spelman, Georgia Lyman, Samantha LeBretton, Tamara Hickey, Ivy O'Brien, Elijah Ungvary
Genre: Drama, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: John (Charlie Shotwell) is a thirteen-year-old boy in a privileged American household, out in the woods in a swanky home. But he is feeling maladjusted, and it is difficult for anyone to get through to him when he has no empathy for any other human being, maybe not even himself. This self-centredness exhibits itself in a search for gratification, be that playing an online tennis game with his best friend (he also takes tennis lessons) or annoying his sister (Taissa Farmiga) who nevertheless treats him fairly fondly. His father (Michael C. Hall) is strict, and growing impatient with the boy, though his mother (Jennifer Ehle) tends to coddle him, but will any of this explain John's actions when he finds an unfinished bunker in the forest?

Basically, what the creepy kid does is drug the rest of his family one night, put them individually in a wheelbarrow, and places them in the bunker, the hole of the title, to experience some form of freedom, as he is interested in knowing what it is like to be an adult. He is very difficult to read, but appears to believe being away from his folks and sister is the perfect way of exercising his independence, though as time goes on he begins to realise that life is better when you have some form of company, assistance and support, and you can't keep buying fast food forever, especially when your surroundings are going into an inevitable decline because you are not capable, or willing, to attend to their upkeep and really need the help of others to get through.

That would seem to be the message, but director Pascual Sisto was so obscure in his glacial storytelling, akin to the Greek "Weird Wave" of contemporary cinema, though Sisto was Spanish, that you could very easily sit through the film, and it was quite hypnotic, and not get what the whole thing was about any clearer at the end than you were at the beginning. Not helping was that John was supposed to be deliberately annoying to both the other characters and the audience, so you would be watching possibly to see John get his comeuppance, which he kind of does in that he dully realises his course of action has been a mistake, but this was not like The Bad Seed where there was a curtain call and he was soundly spanked for the trouble he had caused, we had presumably moved beyond that. Nevertheless, the film was designed to be frustrating, but thought-provoking.

There was also a measure of the seventies pulp shocker paperback Let's Go Play at the Adams' about John's morality, a youngster sustaining the torture as long as he can get away with as his family waste away in that hole, offered occasional meals to sustain them, but mostly sitting around miserably getting rained on. There was also the social embarrassment factor, of which John experiences very little, but the more sophisticated characters sense keenly, be that the sister having to take a shit in front of her parents when she wasn't two years old anymore to the family friend who twigs something is up, despite the boy's denials, when he starts asking her weird questions. Then there was the more blatant weirdo scenes, two of them, with a mother and daughter who seem to be telling this tale as a bedtime story, and when you wonder what kind of mother tells that kind of story to a child, you find out rather unnervingly later on. It was an odd thing, this, almost perversely awkward and hard to enjoy, as if daring you not to get along with it but proving strangely compelling simply by showing people behaving in extremes, or somewhere near them. Music by Caterina Barbieri.

Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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