Pascual Sisto’s “John and the Hole” — a psychological portrait of a disaffected teenager — has had a circuitous road to the screen. The movie, Sisto’s feature debut, was selected for last year’s Cannes Film Festival, which was, of course, canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it premiered at the virtual Sundance Film Festival in January, after which it was bought by IFC Films.
At long last, IFC Films is releasing “John and the Hole” in theaters and on-demand on Aug. 6 — and today, dropped its first trailer.
In “John and the Hole,” John (Charlie Shotwell), is a 13-year-old seemingly without affect. He walks through his life of privilege as if in a trance — until one day, he discovers a bunker on the property of his family’s house. The existence of this bunker awakens something in John, and he drugs his father (Michael C. Hall), mother (Jennifer Ehle) and sister (Taissa Farmiga), and drops them down the hole without explanation.
From there, John’s mystified family pleads with him, as John lives a mostly solitary existence inside their home. What will John do? The question lingers over Sisto’s film, which builds suspense in an unusual way. In his review out of Sundance for Variety, Peter Debruge wrote that “John and the Hole” is “calculated and precise and meticulously constructed in a way that will be of considerable interest to audiences who appreciate stories that unsettle, and those who recognize the precision of Sisto’s approach.” And, Debruge continued, “With any luck, the film will put both Shotwell and Sisto on the map.”
Sisto was selected as one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch this year, and he talked about his collaboration with the Oscar-winning “Birdman” screenwriter Nicolás Giacobone, who wrote the movie’s screenplay based on his own short story, “El Pozo.” Sisto, a visual artist, met and became friends with Giacobone in the late ‘90s, and said of their collaboration: “We always had that seed that we were going to work together. And if I would ever do my first feature film, I knew it was going to be with Nico.”
Sisto said he know “John and the Hole” is likely to be “polarizing.” But that’s what he wants. “I think it’s important to make films that don’t provide answers all the time,” Sisto said. “And sometimes it just makes it part of the conversation, and creates more questions. And makes you think about films in a different way.”
IFC Films also unveiled the poster for “John and the Hole,” exclusively to Variety.