‘Old’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Old is a supernatural thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, based on the Swiss graphic novel, Sandcastle, by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. The film stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Eliza Scanlen, Thomasin McKenzie, Alex Wolff, Abbey Lee, Aaron Pierre, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliott, and Kathleen Chalfant. The story follows a group of people on a tropical vacation at an island resort who find themselves rapidly aging as they spend their day on a secluded beach they cannot escape from.

As the title suggests, Old is about people getting old. Although this is happening very fast and they cannot stop it. This premise is very interesting, very reminiscent of an old episode of The Twilight Zone and I was super excited to see it explored in a feature film. Knowing it’s from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan what I was mainly excited for was what the twist at the end would be. While there are elements of horror the film is more of a character piece. We follow these seemingly wealthy people as their lives disappear over the course of a day. They begin to develop illnesses, lose strength, hearing, sight, and mental faculties, all the common tropes of getting old. (Surprisingly no one loses any teeth though.) Which if you think about it is the scariest thing of all. Every human being knows that one day they will get old and die and there is nothing they can do about it. The only solace we have is that for most of us death comes after living a minimum of half a century. The families on the beach are forced to accept that they will be dead within a day as repeated escape attempts fail and dwindle their numbers prematurely.

In terms of the magical aging logic, the film tries its best to explain it. Anything time-travelesque is hard to come up with rules for as there is always something that will break it. As the people on the beach age rapidly they noticed that their hair and nails don’t grow. It is concluded that since hair and nails are made up of dead cells they are not affected and stay the same. Yet later in the movie, we see some of the male characters grow a little bit of facial hair. It’s a glaring contradiction that goes against the film’s own rules. Then there is the idea of nourishment. The kids are eating a lot of food because their bodies are expending a lot of energy in the growing process. Since the adults are already grown, they do not need to eat as much. But the thing is we don’t see the adults eat at all. Even if they were eating food every hour they should all still be starving to death. Not to mention how the rest of the digestive system should be working and the lack of freshwater they have to drink. In reality, they should not have made it past a couple of hours and that’s a stretch. A fact that is proven during the baby birthing scene.

While most of the dialogue is pretty awful there is a particular joke about Black people aging more gracefully what White people that I did enjoy. The actors also tend to give solid performances until we get to the letter scenes on the beach. Rufus Sewell is solid as Charles, a member of the group who begins to suffer from dementia as he ages. Watching him struggle to keep his sanity is intriguing to watch over time although his moments of clarity are questionable. Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff are also decent as the teenage versions of Maddox and Trent respectively. Theirs is the saddest story as they are losing their entire lives on this beach. There are things they will now never be able to do, something they realize together as they get older.  

The characters also start to make stupid choices as the film goes on. What’s crazy is that they allow these choices to be made. I do feel that the trailers spoiled a lot of the surprises of this film. They should have been kept minimal at best with the basic premise that people are getting old and they don’t know why. Key moments in the film such as the pregnancy and people falling off cliffs should have been kept secret. While I do not wish to give away the ending, it baffles me why children were even allowed to come to this beach. I feel like it would have helped the story if they secretly brought the children there with them. This would have added another level of suffering for the adult characters.

Overall, I like the message of doing what we can to settle our differences and squash our petty arguments while we still have the time to do so. In the big picture, you realize that it doesn’t matter and that forgiveness is best. Guy (Bernal) and Prisca (Krieps) learn this as they get older and can barely remember the things they fought about earlier in the day. Sadly, though that alone does not make a quality story in the end. I give Old a Solid 5.5/10. For this film, the journey is better than the destination. Maybe it can be salvaged in another secret sequel. Perhaps in 15 years, Shyamalan will release Young? Hopefully not though.

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