In Review: John and the Hole

Opening with promise and displaying tantalizing initial threat, John and the Hole quickly squanders its potential not long after its delayed opening titles. The feature directing debut of Pascual Sisto, and adapted by Nicolás Giacobone from his own short story “El Pozo”, the film pairs stark imagery with an intentionally vacuous perspective on its titular young man. But beneath its enigmatic austerity is an arduous 90 minute effort to unlock its character study only to find an empty cave echoing back your frustration. The most embarrassing selection of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and sure to be one of the year’s worst films, John and the Hole is all empty aesthetics and reactionary psychology performatively, even petulantly without depth. 

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In Review: Stillwater

Tom McCarthy is one of the most reliable humanist American filmmakers, creating layered character studies with larger societal considerations. From the economic woes inherent to his best film Win Win, the social biases underneath the charms of The Station Agent, to his most celebrated and largest scale treatise in Spotlight, McCarthy has carved himself a part of the cinematic landscape for humble stories that put human frailty and perseverance at their center. His latest Stillwater, a vaguely Amanda Knox-like narrative of post-Trump attempted reckoning, finds him taking on what might be his most difficult version of that kind of character-first task. 

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In Review: Nine Days

Feature debut director Edson Oda melds science fiction and spiritual drama into one sensuous whole with Nine Days, a new film on bruised matters of the heart and soul. Unimposing, but with a tangible and wholly conceived vision of otherworldly things, this is an increasingly rare type of ambitious independent American cinema with a wide scope. A film about the human experience that takes on not the afterlife but the before, Nine Days captivates the head and heart, taking on grand themes of what it means to face life’s pain and beauty, avoiding pretension and oversentimentality thanks to Oda’s confidently delicate touch. 

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In Review: Never Gonna Snow Again

A satirical fable of brilliantly converging tonal specificity and sharp point of view, Never Gonna Snow Again marks another contemporary film examining class, privilege, and the immigrant experience. But under the collaborative perspective of director duo Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert, this feels like a different kind of film under a too-often-reduced narrative umbrella in cinema of recent years. To examine the isolating, consumption behaviors of the well-off towards the less fortunate, Szumowska and Englert lend a haunting and occasionally quite funny gaze that makes the film less a polemic and more of a despairing chamber piece. It’s lovely, patiently vicious, and refined.

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In Review: Old

Cresting onto the summer season like the sun on our face and waves at our feet, M. Night Shyamalan brings us the kind of high concept schlock that has been missing since the post-pandemic return to theatres has offered little big scale entertainments outside of franchises. This oasis of scary silliness is Old, a beach-set ensemble piece where nothing is at first what it seems—even the telltale warning signs of some of the director’s worst habits. Adapted from Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters’ graphic novel Sandcastle, the film first appears like another Shyamalan bomb on the level of The Happening’s groaningly stilted dialogue and lack of trust in the audience’s intelligence to surmise what’s going on as we watch it. However, Shyamalan quickly finds a stride that results in an all-together fun and touching dose of genre storytelling. 

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