Film Review: John and the Hole a Whole Lot of Nothing

Sherry McGuinn

Don't waste your time on this drawn-out story about...not much.
Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr.Com

As a screenwriter, there have been many times when I've been struck by the sad reality that I’ve written several stellar screenplays over the last twenty years but am still struggling to “make it.”

That said, I thank my readers for putting up with my rants. To return the favor, I am going to tell you about a film that you should avoid at all costs unless time means nothing to you. If whiling away a couple of hours watching a kid actor make more money than you and I will probably ever experience, merely by being annoying as possible, then knock yourself out.

If that’s the case, watch all the stink bombs you can find. There are plenty of them. For me, I’ll never get back the two hours I wasted watching a rich kid “act out.” Or, act bad—either one.

John and the Hole, released last year, was written by Nicolás Giacobone and directed by Pascal Sisto. Two filmmakers previously unknown to me who will now continue to remain on my back burner.

It stars the frighteningly scrawny Charlie Shotwell as John, Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as his father, Jennifer Ehle as his mother, and Taissa Farmiga (younger sibling of Vera), as his sister.

How this bomb was padded to fit a nearly two-hour time slot is beyond me.

Without wasting too much of your time, let me see if I can quickly and succinctly summarize this art-house,, pretentious film that, in a nutshell, is about disconnected lives.

Like we don’t already realize that we’re so disconnected from our fellow human beings, unless we’re shooting or stabbing them, that we’re in the weeds.

John, thirteen, lives in a stunning, yet sterile-looking home in New England, with his family, who never seem to have anything to say to one another. They eat dinner in a dark room and squirt out a word or two, during bites of food. John, however, eats very little as he is on a “special” diet due to the fact that he’s some kind of tennis wunderkind.

I don’t believe the viewer is ever privy to the source of the family’s luxe lifestyle. It just is. Something for us schlubs to drool over as a distraction from how awful this movie is.

One day, John is schlepping through the woods on his long, spindly legs when he happens upon a large, rectangular hole in the ground. A very deep hole.

He tells his parents about it and they inform him that the hole is an unfinished bunker. When he asks what it's for, they tell him it’s a place to go “when something bad happens.”

And that’s all it takes for John to decide to drug his family and stick them in the hole. He spikes what looks like a jug of lemonade with pills he stole from mom and from there, we’re supposed to believe that this skinny kid is able to drag each family member to the hole on a wheelbarrow and shove them in.

Are you getting this? It’s a punishment, you see, for they’re being so disconnected.

Most kids would just spit in their food or steal some booze and go on a tear but John chucks his family into a hole.

You’d think this would be a setup for some truly jaw-dropping moments, would you not? Instead, here is what happens:

John starves his family for a few days. As they get increasingly dirty and probably stinky, they have to pee and poop in front of one another. Not to worry though as John has thoughtfully provided his family with a plastic bag in which to stow the poop. He’s also given them one liter of water that they pass back and forth, which of course, increases their need to urinate.

John invites his only friend over for a weekend of frenetic gaming and “play drowning” in the family pool. The scene smacks of auto-eroticism, but here, they’re taking it to the limit by holding each other underwater to find out what happens when one is near death. Stupidly, I thought something was actually going to happen, like John really drowning his equally obnoxious friend.


Instead, the two teens take John’s father’s car out for a spin and gorge on fast food. Their conversations consist solely of F-bombs.

This is nothing if not a minimalist script, guys.

Before John drives his friend to the bus stop to return home, John stops at an ATM and, using his mother’s debit card, draws out a stack of cash which he gives to his friend.

And then the kids go their separate ways. Scintillating, no? I was expecting a violent outburst of some kind. John pulls out a thousand-dollar Steelport carving knife and gives his foul-mouthed friend “what for.” He dumps the body in the hole with his family and we move on from there.

Here’s what we get instead and don’t worry about spoilers. There’s nothing to give away in this film.

John’s parents and sister, who’ve had nothing to eat for over two days, make ridiculous pleas on the order of, “Why, John?” as their voices grow ever fainter from weakness.

The sister yells up to her brother who stands at the edge of the hole peering down, that, “It stinks down here.”

I’ll bet. It stinks out here, too.

One day, John looks down at his hungry family and announces, apropos of nothing and in his trademark monotone, that he is “going to make risotto.”

And, the little brat does just that. How do we know? We get to watch as John chops and stirs and stirs some more (it’s risotto!) while watching a cooking show on TV.

The next scene shows John lowering Tupperware containers filled with risotto down the hole. He uses a rope that he’s tied to a tree, which he quickly cuts after the food is delivered, lest one of the three attempts to use it as a means to escape. Which Dad does, to no avail.

All three jump on the food like jackals on carrion, shoveling handfuls of risotto into their gaping maws until the little brat points out that, “there are forks.”

Shamefaced, they snatch the tableware and continue to dive in, although I believe it’s Mom who opts to continue using her hands.

But, what’s a good risotto without a bottle of vino to accompany it? John has thoughtfully provided his family with an expensive bottle of red, to which Mom smiles at her husband and says, “your favorite!”

As they eat and suck at the bottle of wine, John sits at the edge of the hole enjoying the results of his culinary expedition. He’s eating, they’re eating, we’re falling asleep and finally, and mercifully, the film comes to its gripping finale when John lowers a ladder into the hole.

Looking like escapees from Riker’s Island, John’s family follows him back to their manse abutting the woods and, after everyone is cleaned up, they eat dinner! Yes! Instead of throwing this kid’s ass on a short bus to a “facility,” they go back to life as usual.

In the final scene, the four sit in near darkness at their dining room table, and this time, John is eating like there’s no tomorrow. And with this kid, who knows?

As in the beginning, there is little if any conversation. While most of the viewing audience has probably changed the channel, some of us linger to watch them eat in silence. To make absolutely sure that we’ve gotten the point.

Disconnection. Get it?

© Sherry McGuinn, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL

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