top of page


The Other John

average rating is 4 out of 5


James Learoyd


Posted on:

Apr 11, 2024

Film Reviews
The Other John
Directed by:
Ryan Spahn
Written by:
Ryan Spahn
Wyatt Fenner, Ryan Spahn

The Other John is a truly surprising and provocative experience. It’s unconventional in every sense of the word; cinematically audacious for its use of an unusual split-screen format, and socially probing in its exploration of complex or exploitative sexual intimacy. The film depicts two men entering an apartment where they kiss, flirt, and eventually have sex (also in the apartment is a cute and comical cat). We see the nuances of their chemistry leading to the act itself which holds a feeling of authenticity whilst not actually being so explicit. However, as the characters’ interaction develops, multiple reveals take place that throw the couple’s power dynamics out of balance. Neither being what they seem, the short presents a perceptive and disturbing realism that encourages discussion regarding what’s described by the filmmakers as “the sometimes violent ways hook-up culture destabilizes gay men’s ability to make honest and truthful connections”.


This piece can be admired on several levels, but most notably the viewer's positioning in relation to the scenario is wholly unique - and incredibly unsettling. What we are seeing at all times are four static shots on screen – the frame is divided into quarters for all seven minutes, showing various locations about the apartment – and the fact that each camera angle is strangely random and oblique only starts to make sense as the picture progresses. There maintains an unexplained layer of voyeurism throughout the piece: what begins as an excitingly original storytelling choice eventually becomes a deeply sinister commentary, succeeding on a level of both engagement and in-world logic. It’s daring in a way that’s not often encountered; for it not only places the characters in a vulnerable position, but we as the audience also experience great discomfort at the implications of what we’ve been watching. It’s brave and slightly vulgar filmmaking, and it will work for some but not all.


It’s an important insight into a toxic type of circumstance. Audiences may question the intent of the piece, the element of moral ambiguity being an artistically challenging thing to reckon with. For example, when the action begins the characters seem super charming and likable – and the vulnerability of their activities urges us to further consider them as real people. Thus, when these two people reveal themselves to be duplicitous, even exploitative, the viewer may not know how to respond. Yet it could be suggested that it’s the short film’s greatest strength, as it flips from being perceptive to being actively confrontational.


To surmise, The Other John may not be accessible to a lot of people who wish for linear, dramatic movie making, however what it offers is something you very rarely see. It’s undeniably ambitious, for it wishes to send a troubling message, and the way they send it couldn’t be less traditional. I found myself admiring most every decision being made, often purely for its disregard of the creatively ‘normal’. It’s of the upmost importance that movies challenge us on a level of spectatorship, and right now low-budget cinema is the best place for it to happen.

About the Film Critic
James Learoyd
James Learoyd
Short Film, LGBTQ+
bottom of page