When watching “Split” and “Glass”, you know that writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is capable of creating visually stunning and head-twisting movies in which great talent bring fantastic stories to life. We would love to say the same about his latest movie “Old” but sadly, we can’t.
While the story is a decent starting point (as it’s based on the graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters) and the cast consists of some great actors, the movie itself becomes an incoherent mess.
Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps), their relationship at breaking point, but their kids Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton) still don’t know it yet. To make sure that they all have one last family holiday, they go to the Anamika Resort.
Once they arrived, it seems that their vacation will be one to remember. Together with other people such as Jarin (Ken Leung), Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Charles (Rufus Sewell), and Chrystal (Abbey Lee), the family has been selected to visit a beautiful secluded beach. There they can enjoy the blistering sun, the cooling sea and the gorgeous nature all by themselves. Or at least, that’s what they think.
They soon discover that the beach isn’t what it looks like at all. Time works differently there, impacting both the ageing process (during 30 minutes, you age multiple years) and the mental state (there’s no hope of escaping or preventing the ageing).
The only thing the people can do is figure out why they were chosen and why they age so rapidly. However, finding answers to those complex questions isn’t easy because of the rapid memory loss due to the ageing process. Will they be able to get the answers they’re looking for, or will their dream holiday turn into a nightmare?
The main problem with this movie is the lack of connection with the characters. Yes, we don’t know what it’s like to be on a beach on which time goes by way too fast, but we do know what it’s like to deal with growing up, (almost) broken relationships, wanting to be loved, death, etc.
The characters in “Old” deal with those emotions, so connecting with the audience should have been easy, but it’s everything but that. Because everyone in this movie deals with these emotions in a speedy tempo, it’s harder to put yourself into the shoes of each character.
Those changing emotions and the rapid ageing of the characters impact the relatability and the dialogue. Just as in many of his movies, Shyamalan struggles to make the characters sound as natural as possible. Take the mother-daughter chat between Prisca and Maddox, for example. During the beginning of the conversation, it’s one between a mother and her young daughter, but by the end of it, Prisca’s talking to her full-grown teenager (played by Thomasin McKenzie), who still thinks she’s 16. Sometimes this can really lead to cringy conversations.
Speaking of McKenzie, she (“Jojo Rabbit”, “True History of the Kelly Gang”) and Alex Wolff (“Hereditary”, “Jumanji: The Next Level”) keep this movie going. When the pair only makes their debut as the children trapped in teenagers’ bodies, they elevate this movie to a whole new level. Right from the moment they’re on-screen, their characters have to get through some strange situations, but the actors take on that role with such class and dignity.
Their beautiful acting performances become even more eye-catching thanks to the stunning cinematography by Mike Gioulakis (“Us”, “Glass”). He certainly knows how to make a clear-blue ocean and glistering sand from a Dominican beach gorgeous to watch. If you combine this with the on-point music by Trevor Gureckis (“Voyagers”, “Bloodline”), then you get the reason why you would want to watch this movie until the very end.
Returning to the cinema is, for both filmmakers and the audience, a fantastic experience (especially after the year we had). But, sadly, we can’t say the same about “Old”. While the movie has a few solid leads and stunning cinematography, the film’s execution and storylines make “Old” feels disjointed.
23rd July 2021
M. Night Shyamalan
THE QUICK SELL
A vacationing family discovers that the secluded beach where they're relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives into a single day.