Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Premise: Vacationers at a tropical resort discover an isolated beach where their bodies age quickly. They try to find a way off the beach while coping with the maladies of aging.
What Works: Old has a novel premise and it’s visualized on screen very effectively. The characters go through the process of aging and the effect is most obvious in the children who transform from preteens to adults over the course of the story. The filmmakers do not use digital aging techniques (not obviously anyway) but rather use physical makeup on the adults and cast different actors to play the young characters at different ages. Although their bodies change, their minds remain childlike and actors Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie are exceptionally good at playing children trapped in older bodies. The drama between their parents, played by Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps, is among the best aspects of the movie. Their marriage is on the rocks and the film visualizes the impact of age and time on a married couple in a way that pokes at something profound. The film is also shot in interesting ways with unusual angles and effective reveals.
What Doesn’t: Several aspects of Old play clunky and inauthentic. The actors are forced to deliver expository dialogue that spells out who they are; this comes across stilted and artificial. Some of the characters’ reactions are odd. Soon after arriving on the beach, one of the children discovers the corpse of a dead woman. Instead of being traumatized, the kids appear to forget all about it after a few minutes. That kind of emotional disconnect happens throughout the film as characters suffer shocks and immediately go on as though nothing had happened. Old has more characters than the filmmakers know what to do with. Most of the characters are stock types and few of their stories are delt with in ways that are meaningful or reveal depth. Everyone is stuck on a relatively small stretch of beach but some of the characters inexplicably disappear from the action and then arbitrarily reappear. The film is also too long. Old has an interesting premise but the story gets bogged down in an unnecessarily protracted conclusion. The best aspects of the movie are the quiet moments and the way it ponders the mysteriousness of time and aging but Shyamalan doesn’t leave well enough alone. He forces a closed resolution that is out of step with the movie and extends the running time well past its organic conclusion.
Bottom Line: Old is nowhere near the worst of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies but it’s disappointing because there’s a great film buried in there somewhere. The film is hampered by a need to explain everything when the most engaging aspects of the movie are its mystery and ambiguity.
Episode: #862 (August 1, 2021)