Review: Cleverly Conceived, 'Old' is Intriguing and Never Dull

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 5, 2021

'Old'  (Source:Universal)

Working from other source material, M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense") writes and directs his next cleverly conceived thriller to middling results.

Based on the graphic novel "Sandcastle," written by Pierre-Oscar Levy and Frederick Peters, "Old" is about a family in crisis going on a vacation to a spectacular resort the wife/mother found online. (There's your first clue that something is amiss.)

Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his wife, Prisca (Vicky Krieps), are having marital problems and dealing with illness, while their children Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and Trent (Nolan River) try to ignore mom and dad's nightly fighting. While they are trying their best to enjoy their trip, the resort manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) tells them of a secret private beach he can arrange for them to go to. "This is just between us," he says. That's your second clue you should be booking passage home immediately.

Joined by another small family of Dr. Charles (Rufus Sewell), his vapid younger wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), and their three-year old daughter Kara, they are dropped off at the beach by a driver (distractingly played by M. Night himself), and told to walk down an incline and they'll find the beach. With a promise to pick them up later, the driver leaves.

Once at the beautiful beach, the group stumbles upon a famous rapper, Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), and are later joined by another couple, Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird). This occurs right after the body of an unknown female floats up near one of the kids.

Of course, everyone blames the dead woman on the rapper, but he insists he barely knew the girl and that he saw her go swimming and then she never came back. That's when the weird starts to happen. When one character tries to go back to camp, he experiences severe head pain while wending his way through the steep rock formations surrounding the beach. He passes out and ends up back on the beach. Then, of course, Maddox and Trent — unbeknownst to them — have aged approximately five years, resulting in now being played by Thomasin McKenzie ("JoJo Rabbit") and Alex Wolff.

Then things get weirder and worse.

The crux of the film is trying to understand what is happening on the beach and the group trying desperately to find their way off of it. While all of this is intriguing and never dull, the dialogue helping us along the way is simplistic and percussive. It's almost as if Shyamalan just took the dialogue from the graphic novel, which utilizes a different kind of speaking pattern. This doesn't help with some of the actors, who are unable to rise above it.

While audiences will have to suspend belief often, there is something compelling about what is happening and Shyamalan is using his best Spielbergian camera tricks to make it look cinematic. (I mean, it all takes place on one beach.)

The ending isn't much of a twist (it's not hard to figure out at least part of it) and it ends on somewhat of a hopeful note, but it also feels anti-climactic, especially after all of the weirdness that came before. Explanations for the supernatural portion of the story are never really given, though the reasons this group find themselves there are. But I give Shyamalan credit for keeping our interest before things get... well.... old.

"Old" is available digitally today

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.