Old is the latest release from M. Night Shyamalan, a mysterious tale of rapid ageing based on a graphic novel called Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. With an intriguing premise and trailer, I was excited to see how Old turns out, especially as Shyamalan’s previous offerings have been both hit (Split, The Sixth Sense) and miss (The Happening, The Lady in the Water). Sadly, Old turns out to be one of the latter.
The film follows the Cappa family as they travel to an unidentified resort in a tropical paradise. Parents Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) take their children Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and Trent (Nolan River) on a final family holiday before they announce their separation and Prisca’s deteriorating health following a medical diagnosis. On arrival, they’re treated like royalty by the resort staff and soon offered a ‘secret’ day trip to a beach only the resort has access to. Joining them on the excursion is doctor Charles (Rufus Sewell), his young wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), his mum (Kathleen Chalfant) and daughter Kara. They’re dropped off by the mini-van driver (a cameo from Shyamalan himself) and make their way through a canyon to a beautiful and secluded beach.
They encounter rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), as they make themselves comfortable on the beach with the provisions supplied by the hotel. The kids play while the adults relax, until their peace is broken when Trent discovers a dead body – the girlfriend of Mid-Sized Sedan who disappeared while swimming. Despite suspicions, Sedan protests his innocence as a new couple, Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) arrive at the beach. They attempt to leave the beach to get help via the canyon, but moments later find themselves unconscious back on the sand after experiencing incredible head pressure while amid the rocks.
Panic begins to set in as the group realise they can’t leave the beach, and further problems arise when Prisca discovers that the three children have aged incredibly rapidly over the space of a few hours, eventually emerging as older actors Thomasin McKenzie (Maddox), Alex Wolff (Trent) and Eliza Scanlen (Kara). The adults realise that half an hour on the beach equates to one year of life, and frantically begin to search for a way of escaping the beach before either old age or escalating tensions between them finish them off.
I really wanted to like this film, and the plot had so much premise as it’s a fantastic horror/sci-fi idea. However, incredibly poor execution has let this down immensely. It starts off well enough as we get to know more about the Cappa family, but it goes downhill as soon as they reach the beach. What could have been a fairly horrifying and scary story has been turned into something that feels almost like a black comedy, and not a funny one either. It just doesn’t feel serious at all, feels like a joke and I found myself almost laughing out loud at parts. It isn’t helped by a very dodgy stilted script that makes it seem like the actors are putting in hammy performances when in fact they’re not, it’s just poor writing. The only ones who come out of this in a decent light are Thomasin McKenzie and Rufus Sewell. And I also hated the cinematography here. There are constant panning and rotating camera shots along with strange out of focus close-ups that further take away from the potentially scary story. I also didn’t understand why Shyamalan chose to shy away from showing the kids faces after they’d aged, almost like it’d be a surprise, but this is entirely pointless for anyone that has seen the trailers.
There are some minor redeeming factors though, so it isn’t all bad. I really enjoyed the ending revealing the motives behind the beach, as it raises some interesting ethical and moral questions, and as the ageing progresses throughout the group there are heartwarming nods to the ageing process and the types of ailments and changes that are commonplace in real life. Unfortunately though for me these don’t make up for what has been a wasted opportunity.
Old has a great premise, but Shyamalan’s execution is sadly lacking and the decision to make this into a more comedic affair rather than a horrifying experience is a very poor move.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!