John And The Hole Explained- Who Is Lilly And That Bizarre Ending
Pascual Sisto’s John And The Hole is about what the hole represents more than who John is and why he does the things he does.
John And The Hole is a psychological slow burner where nothing ever actually burns. It is more an allegorical cautionary tale about our disconnected lives, denial, disaffected youth, and sociopathy. The extremely loose narrative structure leaves plenty of room for confusion and interpretation. Streaming on Showtime currently, the film is as maddening as it is strangely hypnotic. Characters behave in unexpected and unpredictable ways, and dark fairy tales invade most scenes making it difficult to determine what is real and what is fantasy. Here is everything you need to know about the film, the strange ending, and who Lilly and her mother are.
In John And The Hole, John is a thirteen-year-old kid who cares about nothing. He goes through his boring, meaningless days with no purpose and no hope of change. John is a privileged kid with parents who dote on him while neglecting to provide the things he needs most, their time and attention. He fills his days with tedious tennis lessons and mindless activities while desperately wishing he was an adult. Growing up means an escape from his dull, lonely life.
One day he finds a half-finished bunker in the forest near his house. He drugs his parents and older sister and tosses them in. While they are stuck in the hole, he engages in wish fulfillment. He drives his parent’s car around town, withdraws large sums of money from his family’s bank account, buys a television for his room, eats junk food, and invites his friend over for a sleepover. None of it changes the monotony of his life, so he lets his family out of the bunker, and the film ends with them eating dinner together as if nothing happened.
Lily and her mother
It is crucial to contextualize the small subplot within the greater story to understand the film’s point. A young red-haired girl is introduced thirty minutes in when the title card is also displayed. The title card and odd placement of this seemingly unrelated and pointless story hide the real truth. John and his family are not the main characters. Lily and her mother are the real main characters, and everything we see is a construct of the story Lily’s mother tells her. This is why John can drive all over town without consequence and how he knows his parent’s ATM pin. Most children would not know this information. Additionally, John’s mother’s friend makes very little attempt to help him even after learning he had been left by himself.
At first, both Lily and John seem to have a lot in common. They are both odd children with absentee parents. John’s parents don’t realize how lonely and miserable he is, nor do they understand how dangerous his lack of empathy is. Lily’s mother ignores red flags like Lily not using the restroom for twenty-four hours and telling her about dreams that obviously are cries for attention. Lily’s dream about being a blue balloon that no one sees because it blends into the sky is heartbreaking because this is the way Lily views herself. She thinks she is invisible to her father, who left them inexplicably years ago, and her mother, who superficially seems to care but is cold and detached.
Lily’s mother offers two stories to her, including Charlie And The Spider and John And The Hole. Both are things that we see play out in real-time in John’s timeline. Charlie is John’s family gardener who finds a spider on his back and lets it walk on his hand until he bites him. Likely the moral of the story is similar to the story of the scorpion and the frog. Regardless of how beneficial they are to gardens or how pretty they can be, they are dangerous.
Charlie trusted the spider, and it bit him just as he trusted John, and he drugged him. We see Charlie again later, so we know John did not poison him. Likely this was a fact-finding mission. He probably never intended on killing anyone. He just wanted to see what would happen and how long the effect would last. Police never come to question John about Charlie’s drugging, so we can assume Charlie thought he was allergic to a spider bite and never reported his collapse.
Lily is told the story of John as a way to explain what is about to happen to her. Her mother intends to leave her to fend for herself, believing she is thirteen when she is only twelve. Just as John, at thirteen, was fine by himself physically, he missed his family and ultimately let them out because it is better to have them caring for him than be responsible for everything himself. Letting them die would not change the trajectory of his life. Once he realized this, he lowered down the ladder and went back to the pool to try to drown himself again. This may have been one more cry for help.
We see Lily walk through the same forest near the bunker John does because the story is imagined from Lily’s perspective. These are places she knows and has seen. She imagines these known places as John’s because it is the reference she is familiar with. The final scene of her walking through the space is meant to explain that everything we saw with John was part of a story only.
The hole is a physical place that John lowers his family into while they are unconscious and a metaphorical emptiness. It is the weight of responsibility, despair, hopelessness, and mundanity. For John’s mother and father, it is adulting. Having money and possessions means you are never hungry or wanting for material things, but it doesn’t mean you are happy. John’s mother seems lost in a fog of self-absorption and ignorance. His father seems comfortable enough but doesn’t have enough time for his son and is out of touch with his daughter. When John asks his mother what it feels like to be an adult, she replies that it isn’t different from being a child, just more anxiety.
As strange as the question is from John, her answer is equally odd. For those who are mostly content with their choices, adulthood is not like childhood. Being an adult means the freedom to choose your own path. It means making mistakes sometimes and responsibility that can feel crushing, but it can also mean success and accomplishment. John’s mother may likely suffer from anxiety or depression. It may be why John struggles with his own problems and why she is incapable of helping him before or after he tosses her into the hole.
The hole could also symbolize maturity and the loss of innocence. As we grow out of childhood, we are forced to deal with harsh realities. Freedom comes with a cost. We now are responsible for our own care and that of our children if we have them. We have to work to pay bills and worry about our future. John’s family does very little to prepare him for the future beyond piano lessons and tennis practice. They seem reluctant to explain more complicated subject matter like what a bunker could be used for. They seem to treat him more like a fragile child than a teenager. For John, the hole is a way to satisfy his curiosity when his parents fail to allow him the ability to grow up.
There is also a nuanced plot beat that could be untangled by looking at how Lily and John handle their coming of age. John causes his isolation by keeping his family in the bunker. He takes charge of the house and does what he wants. Lily is panicked and begs for her mother to take her with her. Lily is told about a father who left them and a grandmother who got pregnant at fifteen. Society sexualizes girls as they hit puberty while they empower young men. Girls are also saddled with expectations to look and act certain ways while boys are allowed to behave however they like. Their misdeeds are excused as “boys will be boys”.
The ending of John And The Hole
After John gives his family a ladder, he returns to the house and tries drowning himself. He and his friend repeatedly tried to do so, hoping to “see” something. His father sees his floating body and jumps in to save him. We next see the family cleaned up and eating a family meal together, indifferent to the past week’s events. The absurdity of this scene is further proof that John’s story is only a fable. In the end, the moral of the story is about growing up too fast and about preventing our kids from growing up at all. Lily is abandoned and left to grow up quickly, while John is coddled and protected so much, so he gets away with drugging and dumping his family. Neither extreme is good.
One final explanation may be about the cycle of life. Everything we see may be Lily’s denial of her parent’s death. Her child’s mind may think of herself as a young girl when she is an adult who is losing her mother. Her father died years ago, and Lily views him as having “gone away” instead of dying. The money under the bed could be an inheritance, and her stories are final attempts to connect with a child she will soon be leaving. She can’t explain where she is going or why she has to leave.
Films like The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and We Need To Talk About Kevin both are about the dangers of denial and detachment. Decisions have consequences regardless of how hard we try to deny them. We should all hope John is not real because he is a serial killer in the making. On the other hand, the idea that a twelve-year-old is left to care for herself is horrific. The biggest takeaway is this; parenting is hard. Don’t screw it up.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.