M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old” surfaces an unavoidable certainty we all face but tend to ignore in our everyday lives: that life is fleeting and all of us — from child to adult — will have to confront it. But we usually think we’ll have the time to process that reality. And that’s what makes the premise of “Old” so inherently horrifying. Aging so quickly that you have to live a whole life in one day? And no, you don’t have a moment to take that in. “Old” is written and directed by Shyamalan and inspired by the graphic novel, “Sandcastle” by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters.
A group of strangers on vacation find themselves on an exclusive, secluded beach and begin to realize it’s not the relaxed beach day they were promised. Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) are on vacation with their children Trent (Alex Wolff) and Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie). There’s tension between the married couple, but a visit to this exclusive beach acts as a deterrent to whatever is simmering between them for the sake of the kids. Charles (Rufus Sewell) and Chrystal (Abbey Lee) are dealing with their own issues, both individually and together, and are joined by Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), Charles’ mother and their daughter Kara (Eliza Scanlen). The only seemingly happy couple is Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird).
“Old” includes familiar Shyamalan trademarks mixed in with some new tricks. The use of angular camera placement, POV shots and out of frame placements creates a continuous threat of doom and a chaotic flow that makes watching “Old” uneasy. And that’s the point. There’s no relaxation for both the characters and audience. There’s a lot of themes at play here given the diverse group of beach visitors. It makes for a layered story that touches on regret, past mistakes, beauty, love and more. The score adds to the suspense and complements the direction.
The cast all bring their A-game, even when the dialogue strikes some awkward notes. But the standouts are McKenzie and Wolff who have to portray children who grew up in just a few hours. How they play this transformation is layered, complex and really well done — even if it seems a bit odd while you’re watching it. But how could it ever make sense, really?
Another character in this film is the beach itself. The production design emulates the beauty of this ‘paradise’ but also turns it into the mysterious island that causes these people to age rapidly. It reminds me of Shyamalan’s earlier films, like “Signs” and “The Village,” that primarily took place in one location. The characters are isolated, but the beach never feels static. Whether it’s the waves or rocks that are vibrating, the beach feels alive — which is ironic given that it’s taking away the lives of those that inhabit it. Nature’s cruel way or man-made?
In true Shyamalan fashion, there’s a twist to the story that he presents. To some, the ‘reveal’ at the end of “Old” may not be satisfying, but I found it impactful, especially after you have time to sit with it after the credits roll. All of Shyamalan’s films tend to comment on different aspects of human nature and the question of “What one would do when faced with extraordinary circumstances?” More is revealed than usual for a Shyamalan twist and it works in this case. Just like his other films, “Old” will benefit from multiple viewings over the years. Shyamalan’s twists aren’t by chance and clues tend to be sprinkled throughout. A rewatch will bring to light those moments you may have missed and it’s fun peeling back layers one may have missed the first-time around. Every second counts, so don’t wait to watch this film!
Catherine grew up watching action flicks at a very young age which led to her love of film. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Radio-TV-Film in 2012. Always the adventurer, Catherine traveled and lived in Sydney, Australia for a year where she took a selfie with Brad Pitt. She runs Shuffle with passion, lots of caffeine and tacos. When she’s not editing or writing you can find her crafting and planning her next adventure.