Image: The characters find a body that has decomposed at a rate seemingly impossible [Source: Google]
A vacationing family discovers that the secluded beach where they’re relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives into a single day.
Old is like one of those movies you hear about from your friend who exclusively buys films from the market. And not even the big name ones, no, he buys the really obscure dated films that you all laugh at how bad they are and wonder how exactly they got made. Old is like that except this is from the guy who made such interesting and culturally poignant films like the Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.
It’s an admirable effort from Shyamalan if his intent was to make some b-movie hot garbage. The sort of “horror” films you could almost believe were designed for children. What starts as something quite interesting and fresh – the idea that a group of people wind up in a place where they age more rapidly than before, quickly defenders into some of the worst performances and direction I have seen in a while. To be fair to the actors I do not believe it is their fault, they are not exactly unbelievable but what they have been told to react like and the dialogue they have been given combined with the pacing. Makes for a solid hour of melodramatic, hammy performances that fit be right at home in daytime soap operas, and even then it might be considered a smidge over the top.
The fundamental problem that doesn’t allow the audience to suspend its disbelief is not the ham-fisted attempt to scientifically explain in a huge exposition dump why exactly the people cannot leave and why they are ageing so fast. It’s the lack of logic, character and ultimately sense. When a character remarked that the children going from 6 to 16 in the space of 15 minutes was down to something they ate, even I couldn’t let a line like that slide. The sheer stupidity of such dialogue runs its course through the entirety of the film. To add to which, the plot itself doesn’t move or engage or spark at all for over an hour as the characters and the plot essentially just hang out at the beach worrying what to do.
The real flaw with Old however, is that it has such a juicy concept to open the door for some deep insightful comments on death and life and everything in-between. It does in fact touch on it somewhat in a shallow manner, giving such messages as vanity and career and wealth ultimately do not fulfil your life and will fade away as all will in death, so you should focus on the things that matter. It’s all rather, well, obvious. Shyamalan doesn’t do much to tackle any anxiety about death as he has spoke about in why he adapted the book and certainly doesn’t offer any substantial take away for audiences.
In the end the big almost trademarkable “Shyamalan twist” is actually a satisfying one. It does elevate the tragedy of a film that preceded that moment and does offer more conversation about the plot despite the narrative holding no philosophical meat. I actually believe if this moment had been at the start or the mid point in a this film with events following it, the tension around the beach and certainly the conversation around it would have improved significantly and actually offered up a conversation about do ends justify means which Shyamalan also falls short of making any kind of statement on.