2 out of 5 stars
Few directors have seen such lofty heights and lowly depths as M. Night Shyamalan. Over his sprawling decades, Shyamalan has delivered the world a cultural touchstone in The Six Sense and other notable films such as Signs and Unbreakable. Yet, he has also created some of the worst movies in cinema over his tenure, such as The Last Airbender and The Happening. The rest of his oeuvre is pedestrian at best. But could Old be that resurgence of this once considered great director’s career? Things seem pretty promising with a gripping trailer, a fantastic premise, and a top-grade cast.
Couple Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) travel to a luxurious resort with their two children, 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and six-year-old Trent (Nolan River). They are met with a five-star welcome, served cocktails specific to their pre-arriving survey, and shown around the grounds. After settling into their luxury accommodations, the resort manager offers the family exclusive access to an obscure beach that he only presents to select guests.
The family ultimately accepts the offer and travels to this beach via bus. They are joined by a doctor, his younger wife, her mother, their 11-year-old daughter and the family dog. They all reach the beach in search of a fun-filled day under the sun, but tragedy strikes when they discover a woman’s body in the water. Her companion, a rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), is the main suspect of the woman’s death, leading to mounting tensions. Meanwhile, to add to the beach's bizarre citation, there comes another twist as the younger children grow into 16-year-old Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie) and 11-year-old Trent (Alex Wolff). All of these events occur within a matter of a few hours. This steers the group into realising that something is afoot on this beach and things are not as they seem. Specifically, time is moving faster than the rest of the world.
Old has a few effective shocking moments, but none prove to be genuinely memorable or terrifying. Still, there are also some recurring Shyamalan shortcomings present. The best way to describe these familiar elements of the famed director is to compare his camera to the six-year-old, Trent. Just as the character is full of energy and questions, he rarely gets the answers he desires. The same could be said of the camera as it hovers around, as if it is searching for something interesting to say. These grandiose camera movements indicate something of substance, but ultimately reveal the director's lack of interesting ideas to draw from his premise. Many potential thematic elements merely begin to scratch the surface of the waves of this film. Examples like that of growth and learning from past mistakes were never fully explored. Unfortunately, they only turn into based line readings in the film and nothing more. Shyamalan even takes a shot at a twist element that he is known for, but is ultimately just a story device that will leave no viewers surprised.
While many elements in Old do fall short, the tremendous cast does prove to be up to the task. They all manage to emit emotions and movements that portray five years of physical and mental growth in one hour. These talented and high-demand actors were not wasted here. Krieps and Bernal manage to make the impassioned distress of the parents with a realistic portrayal. While the children are represented by two of the most talented young actors globally, Thomasin Mckenzie (JoJo Rabbit) and Alex Wolff (Hereditary). This talented pair depicts ageing from the range of 11 years old to young 20s with brilliant effectiveness. Puberty to adulthood is in the scope of these performances, and the ultimate trauma of experiencing those changes is effectively unfolded by the duo. Despite all of these convincing performances they were not enough to salvage Old or move this Shyamalan film from his pedestrian category of cinema.
REEL DIALOGUE: What is the value of your family?
Family: This is a word that can provide tears and smiles at the same time. One positive aspect of Old is how it gives a glimpse into the great love and pain of a family. This depiction proves that great support can only come in the arms of a loving parent.
When God said ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:22), his intention was for his creation to multiply and have families.
Not too long after this instruction from the maker of heaven, things went exceptionally wrong and even families were affected by the original sin. Yet, even though something in this world is tainted, it does not devalue God's intention.
Family is of high value in the eyes of God. It can be considered a bittersweet gift, but it is a gift nonetheless. Regardless of your personal reality with your family, have you taken the time to show your parents, children and extended family the appreciation for the blessing that they are to you?
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1