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 M. Night Shyamalan’s Old was released in theaters on July 23, 2020. (Photo provided via @KillerCritics via Twitter).

Film Review: 'Old' won’t stand the test of time

Old follows a group of seemingly random strangers on a beautiful tropical vacation. When their resort recommends they all go to a private beach, the plot kicks off. What follows is a series of death, confusion and mystery as all of the strangers start to age rapidly. The film is based upon a Swiss graphic novel entitled “Sandcastle.”

M. Night Shyamalan’s first new film since 2019’s Glass fumbles its strong premise, just like that film before it. What starts out as an intriguing and intense plot becomes more and more outlandish as its runtime increases. It’s truly a shame this film couldn’t live up to its potential.

The characters of the film are all awful and completely forgettable, regardless of the quality of the actors playing them. Vicky Krieps, who plays the main family’s mother in the film, has been fantastic in other films such as Phantom Thread, but in this film her performance is truly painful to watch at times. The same can be said for most of the others in this cast. Thomasin McKenzie, who plays Vicky Krieps’ daughter, is the only actor in the entire film who gives a consistent believable performance. Even with her solid performance, her New Zealander accent often slips through in what is supposed to be a character from Philadelphia.

The rest of the characters range from entirely unimportant to blatant caricatures. Abbey Lee plays a self-obsessed and rude mother. Her husband, a doctor who happens to be not-so-subtly racist, is played by Rufus Sewell. Ken Leung, a typically great character actor, is relegated to being the husband of another mostly inconsequential character played by Nikki Amuka-Bird. Alex Wolff’s character, Trent, is the know-it-all kid cliché you’ve seen in a thousand other films, just aged up because of the central conflict of the film. None of these characters are interesting or worth caring about, which makes it really awkward when the movie wants you to care about them in a dramatic moment or a death scene. 

The film also tries to do a bit too much with its paper thin characters. The parents in the previously mentioned main family are on the verge of divorce for various reasons. The father (Gael Garcia Bernal), is cold to his wife and extremely warm to his children, making his wife look inattentive to her children in comparison. The problem with this is that the film doesn’t have the time to flesh these plot details out to make them matter and the audience care. They also try to tackle racism among two of the characters for some reason; it doesn’t add anything to the film at all and only serves to make the audience uncomfortable. That may be the only thing the film succeeds in on purpose.

The biggest problem with the film is its script, it’s truly awful. The dialogue is cheesy and predictable, the characters are paper thin and mostly pointless, the attempts at humor completely fall flat, the setups and payoffs are laid in too obviously and the film takes itself way too seriously. The only thing the script gets right is its ending and Shyamalan’s required twist; and others will surely disagree about that. The ending tries to be a commentary on something major that’s plaguing American society today. While Old doesn’t succeed in doing that, it does provide a serviceable enough explanation for what’s been happening on screen for the past two hours.

The film is also impossible to take seriously after a certain point, that point will be different for every individual. For the group to my right, it was the first death of the film. For me, it was a line blatantly and shamelessly setting up a particular character’s reason for existing in the film. For others, it was any other ridiculous plot point before or after those examples in this increasingly absurd film.

The technical aspects of the film are similarly bad or just inconsistent, with the audio mixing being the film’s biggest technical issue. The waves and beach sounds were constantly overpowering the character’s lines -- making it a chore to try and figure out what was being said consistently. The cinematography is inconsistent at best, which is disappointing considering how naturally beautiful the setting of the film is. The score was also nothing more than the run of the mill horror/thriller score, with jump scare cues intact.

The best thing I can say about Old is that I can see it reaching the so-bad-that-it’s-good-cult-status like one of Shyamalan’s other films, The Happening, though it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as that film. Old does have its fair share of unintentionally hilarious moments, one of which being the funniest thing I’ve seen in a theater in a long time, but even that can’t save it from being a mostly unentertaining watch . Old shouldn’t be given the time of day.


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