Old, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, is a mixed bag of his best and worst qualities as a filmmaker. His first film since closing out the Unbreakable trilogy with Glass in 2019 is a thought-provoking story that examines the fear of getting old, but its concept feels held back at times. While it gets messy, Old is one of Shyamalan’s stronger efforts. His skillful direction is on display but dampened by bizarre camerawork more than once, and Old reinforces the argument that someone else should write the films he directs.
The thought of getting old is a fear for many, but some feel indifferent towards the inevitable. Shyamalan capitalizes on these fears by combining them with an environment several people would consider going to for peace, the beach. However, many will plan a getaway to escape their problems at home and that’s what’s going on for the central family in Old. Shyamalan’s screenplay almost serves as a reminder that running from your problems won’t make them better. Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan, Old stars Alex Wolff, Thomasin Mckenzie, Gael Garcia Bernal, Eliza Scanlen, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, and Aaron Pierre. The film follows a family on vacation that discovers the beach they are on is causing them all to age faster than normal.
The primary family includes Guy (Bernal), his wife Prisca (Krieps), and their two kids, Maddox (Mckenzie) and Trent (Wolff). Old begins with them arriving at the resort, letting it be known these are the four characters to watch out for. Shyamalan’s screenplay introduces many others along the way, which is fine, but by the end of the film, you haven’t given audiences a reason to care about the core family or their fates. The time spent with Guy and his family does include an argument between him and Prisca to showcase this vacation is an escape from the hurdles they are avoiding. Once the beach horror starts, everyone is one-dimensional at best for the rest of the runtime. Whether intentional or not, characters are defined by their occupations and health issues.
Old spoonfeeds the audience too often when it doesn’t need to since Shyamalan doesn’t hide his signature twist this time around. It’s revealed halfway, but the reasoning comes towards the end, so the over-explaining can grow tired. Shyamalan’s twist this time is an acceptable but lukewarm revelation. The dialogue that Guy, his family, and the other characters share amongst each other is unbearable. Their conversations and behaviors during the intense moments will have many scratching their heads. For instance, someone gets stabbed to death midway through the film, a scream is heard, but seconds after they find the body, this same person acts as if they weren’t just terrified.
Shyamalan paces this film very well, for the most part, it is sluggish at times, but there’s this feeling of anguish from start to finish. The atmosphere created in this film will keep audiences uncomfortable for many sequences, some that include body horror. It’s an improvement over Glass, which seemed to drag on for a lot of its middle act. Old becomes a heart-racing, beach vacation gone to hell in the blink of an eye. Shyamalan doesn’t let up once it kicks in and utilizes this seemingly tranquil environment to create a stressful scenario for the characters and the audience. Performances here are hit or miss at times, specifically with the line delivery from the characters.
Everyone does a terrific job displaying the panic and confusion felt throughout the film. Wolff and Krieps are the standouts here, Wolff delivers yet another emotionally draining performance as this kid whose losing his youth quicker than he can process. Krieps’s performance as his mother is equally heartwarming and sad to watch because she can’t protect her children, which is what any mother wants to do. The pain and sadness in her eyes are enough to make up for the underdevelopment of this family because audiences will start to care about them. Trevor Gureckis’ score sounds off at all the right moments to amplify the fear and frustration felt by everyone on this beach. Shyamalan’s concept is half-baked, but the technical strengths are undeniable here.
Old probably won’t be a Shyamalan film that many will grow to appreciate, this execution is going to spark a divide, but that’s to be expected at this point. Its underlying themes regarding life are the strongest aspects as it relates to the screenplay. While Skillfully directed and well-acted, the script hiccups prevent the film from being considered nothing more than alright. This horrific concept will make you contemplate your life in more ways than one.