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.