John and the Gap Evaluate: A Calm, Methodical, and Crushing Gap
It seems strange to say “I’ve seen this before” about a movie where a teenage boy throws his family into a hole, but I’ve seen it John and the Hole In front. I haven’t seen this exact scenario, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of films relying solely on style to create a broad metaphor while neglecting the work of story and character. director Pascual Sisto Try to make his film threatening but leave aside the fact that it’s kind of fun to throw your family in a hole for being so fancy that the film doesn’t seem to offer anything greater than a vague concept of children, who try find their way into adulthood. But because Sisto’s storytelling is so weak and its concept so comprehensive, the film could be about anything, which means it’s nothing but a waste of time.
John (Charlie Shotwell) seems to be a typical, if a little strange and calm, 13-year-old boy. One night he drugged his father (Michael C. Hall), Mother (Jennifer Ehle), and sister (Taissa Farmiga) drags her to an unfinished bunker near her house and lowers her into the hole. When the family members wake up to see a silent John standing over them, they beg the boy who does not answer. After the family realizes the hole is too deep to climb out of, the time John spends their money slowly goes by, lying to other adults about the family visiting a sick relative and basically doing what he wants while she occasionally brings his prisoner family something to eat and drink. There is also a strange frame device that appears 30 minutes after the movie starts, in which a mother (Georgia Lyman) tells her daughter (Samantha LeBretton) a story about “John and the Hole”.
This framing device, which turns the entire first 30 minutes into a slow and drawn-out prologue (in case you’re wondering what speed this movie is running at), tells us that what we see is a fable. It’s a story passed down to shed light on a greater truth, but the greater truth that Sisto seems to haunt is none other than children wrestling with what it means to be an adult. However, since there is nothing unique to John other than being a creepy little sociopath, there is nothing real or specific to these developments. Nobody here feels like a real person, so they all exist in this area of the fable where they are just a metaphor. The problem is that the metaphor isn’t that defined or interesting.
I’ve seen this movie before because mediocre directors do this when they are unable to tell good stories. You hedge more with style, and so John and the Hole feel creepy and threatening all the time, but that just makes the movie drab. You go into the topics broadly and hope that you, the viewer, fill the void. I could easily argue that John and the Hole is a loveless God figure (John) who has left humanity (his family) behind and is calling for his support, but he just gives them enough to survive rather than admit Life. But that argument would be hollow because it is more of my construction than anything that John and the Hole offer beyond its crushing broad strokes.
Sisto had a strong starting point. That premise – a boy abandons his family in a hole – is why I saw the movie in the first place. But he didn’t bother to do anything with it other than break away from reality and hide behind the metaphor. Talking to your audience is no small matter, but within the first ten minutes it becomes painfully clear that Sisto doesn’t know what to do when he has us, and he hopes that when his film broods enough, we will think thoughtfully. Instead, I spent the next 90 minutes wishing I was more in a hole than in that endless slog.
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