Image: Unsplash User: Reinis Birznieks

‘Old’ is fun but flawed


M. Night Shyamalan has to be one of Hollywood’s most eclectic modern filmmakers, with award-winning hits such as The Sixth Sense and colossal misses like The Happening. His films always seem to be like marmite, and I would happily eat the whole jar.

So, when I saw the trailer for Old drop, I could not wait to get down to the cinema to see it, and that seemed to be a common theme among movie-goers. Old topped the US box office on its opening weekend, the third consecutive Shyamalan film to do so. Shyamalan seems to have concocted a recipe for success – however, Old, for me, highlights that this recipe might be going stale.

Shyamalan seems to have concocted a recipe for success – however, Old, for me, highlights that this recipe might be going stale

The film follows Guy Cappa (Gael Garcia Bernal), his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their children Maddox (Alexa Swinton/Thomasin McKenzie/Embeth Davidtz) and Trent (Nolan River/Luca Faustino/Alex Wolff/Emun Elliott) on their way to holiday at a remote beach resort. We learn the parents have planned this to be their last holiday as a family before their divorce.

On the resort manager’s recommendation, they visit a secluded beach cove, alongside a few other guests including: a famous rapper (Aaron Pierre), a surgeon (Rufus Sewell) and his wife (Abbey Lee), daughter (Kylie Begley/Mikaya Fisher/Eliza Scanlen) and mother (Kathleen Chalfant) and a married couple (Ken Leung and Nikki Amunka-Bird). As they spend more time on the beach, they realise that time is not moving as it should: one year of their lives is passing in 30 minutes. What ensues for the rest of the film involves them attempting to figure out why they are rapidly getting older.

From the exterior, Old has an extremely intriguing concept: it is unique and there is so much that could be explored with it, and I do feel the film does an effective job with this. The events that occur on the cove answer a lot of ‘what if’ questions a viewer may have been asking.

Old feels undecided on what it wants to be

It is, unfortunately, the execution of these explorations that really lets it down. Old feels undecided on what it wants to be. At times, scenes are played with extremely high tension and the film becomes a psychological thriller, and at other times it feels like it is not taking itself seriously at all, and I found myself laughing. The trailer sets the film up to be an intense horror, but tonally, the end product is all over the place.

A major contributor of this issue lies with the camera angles. A lot of the time, the action of a scene is happening just out of shot and we are instead treated to someone’s reaction. Now, to some this will seem like a really inventive decision, but I can’t explain how much this frustrated me while watching the film. I found myself willing the camera to pan round.

There was only one time this decision worked for me, and that was when the kids first started to age. We were placed between the shoulders of the children, treated only to the confusion on the faces of the married couple, as they tried to comprehend the sight of the supposed six- and eleven-year-old in front of them. Yet it seems this was done and someone decided, that works well, let’s just do it at every single opportunity we get. It lost its impact.

I thought the pacing for the majority of the running time was excellent

This flaws may lead you to believe that I completely hated this film, but I wouldn’t say that was the case. I thought the pacing for the majority of the running time was excellent: at no point did I feel it was dragging and I was engaged for the whole 108 minutes. I also really enjoyed the characterisation, particularly the first iteration of Trent we meet, who was charming and genuinely made me laugh, and Charles the surgeon, who provided the true terrifying moments of the film. Huge kudos has to go to Rufus Sewell’s performance.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend you completely remove Old from your radar; instead, I would wait until it is released either on streaming services or you can get your hands on a hard copy. It definitely has its issues, but it is a lot of fun, and I think this makes it ideal for a movie night. So, wait a few months, and invite some friends round to give this one a go, because it could really split opinions and present some interesting discussions once the credits roll.

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