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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Shows the need for/importance of honesty and communication in family relationships, as well as the idea that adulthood isn't something to be rushed. On the other hand, John acts out a sociopathic fantasy, uses his parents' money, keeps them sequestered in a hole, and somehow doesn't face any consequences (at least on camera).
Positive Role Models
John's parents seem thoughtful and attentive, even after they're kidnapped and placed in the hole. The mom's friend does call the police after a strange encounter with John, but they don't do a very thorough job of looking for him or his family.
No diversity: The entire cast is affluent, straight, able-bodied, and White.
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Violence & Scariness
John drugs first the landscaper and then his entire immediate family. He drags his family into a wheelbarrow and then presumably lowers them into the hole (although it's never shown how he accomplishes this without significantly harming them). The family is forced into a state of deprivation, wondering when they'll eat next, experiencing hunger, and having to relieve themselves in one another's presence. John tries to drown himself just to the point of experiencing something otherworldly without dying.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple kisses and embraces while lying down. John makes a pass at his mom's friend.
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Frequent strong language (most of which is said by young teens while playing video games) includes dozens of uses of "f--k," "f--ker," "f--king," "son of a bitch," "a--hole," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
John drinks wine while he's on his own (occasionally straight from the bottle). Adults drink wine at meals and in the hole. John drugs four others with his mother's prescription drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that John and the Hole is based on screenwriter-author Nicolás Giacobone's short story "El Pozo," about a 13-year-old boy (Charlie Shotwell) who traps his parents and older sister in a 20-foot hole for no discernable reason. The movie is creepy (the main character seems like a sociopath) but doesn't include any gory violence -- just people who are knocked out after being unknowingly sedated and then waking up in traumatic circumstances. Expect lots of strong language, particularly when John and his friend play online video games (dozens of "f--k"s and variations on the same word). In a couple of scenes, adults drink wine with meals, and eventually John does, too, since he's alone and can do as he wants. The movie focuses on a White, wealthy family, and it's such a small cast that there are no diverse supporting characters. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This drama's compelling premise breaks down in execution, despite talented actors and some interesting cinematography. Writing from the perspective of not having read Nicolás Giacobone's award-winning short story, it's difficult to tell whether the movie's sparse plot and unsatisfying second half are due to the source material or the script (which was also by Giacobone). There's no doubt that Spanish installation artist Pascual Sisto's directorial debut has an artful Michael Haneke-esque tone, although it doesn't rise to the level of the Austrian director's astonishing work. All of the actors do a decent job: Shotwell is appropriately vacant-eyed and distant, with a monotone that's eerie and off-settling. Hall, Ehle, and Farmiga each do as much as they can with their roles -- acting shocked, angry, horrified, and far-too-quickly resigned.
This isn't a film that delves into motivation, diagnoses, or revelations. In the hole, the family has no secrets to share, no "ta da!" twists. Sisto and Giacobone aren't concerned with anything so overt. Adulthood, as experienced by John, is an exercise in privilege. His father's ATM code grants him access to $750,000+ in savings that he uses to pay for all of his wants: chicken nuggets, a huge gaming television, and the money to give his best friend cash as a thank you. There's a recurring theme about death (John tries to drown himself just to the point of experiencing something otherworldly without dying) and growing up, but, really, this is logic-defying (how did a lanky young teen have the strength to deposit his family in the hole without breaking their bones, or at the very least waking them up?). Although Sisto shows promise, this is an underwhelming film that can't live up to its premise.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.