By Laurie Coker
It is easy to give director M. Night Shyamalan second (third, fourth …) chances. After all, he did blow our minds with “The 6th Sense” and entertain us with “Signs” and for some “Unbreakable”. Since then, however, his subsequent films are more whaaat? than wow. “Old”, the director’s latest venture into time-twisting and belief-suspending, borders on something good but fails to find its roots and dulls more than dazzles. Shyamalan and a solid cast flounder with a script that can quite grasp or live up to what might be the vision.
The film opens with a family of four (Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Nolan River, and Alexa Swinton) heading to a luxury vacation. The children, age 6 and 12, seem less than thrilled but mom assures them that all will be well. Fast forward to an amazing resort, where cocktails (even virgin ones for the kids) are served and the fun begins. Soon after, they and other guests are shuttled to a remote section of beach to bask in the sun and unwind. In no time, the proverbial stuff hits the fan – a nude female body is found, a rapper (Aaron Pierre) with a bloody nose stares blankly at the sea, and the kids age – rapidly. Actually, so do the adults but the difference doesn’t show as much on them. Avoiding spoilers, I’ll move on.
The cast, as noted, is solid. Rupert Sewell, Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Lee, and Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff (as the older children) work hard to play within a muddled, sloppy script that tries to include too much – backstories, subplots, unexpected gruesome deaths, mind-games and more. Most are completely inexplicable as has a become common theme in Shyamalan films. He never offers ample time for anyone character to develop in any meaningful way so ultimately, we care about no one. He uses up an hour and forty-eight minutes to tell his story and still, he never manages to captivate or solidify anything.
Surely, Shyamalan wants us to consider living in the present and appreciating the moment, but instead, the end result is laughable – all themes lost. Speaking of the end, don’t expect the “oh wow” finale of his freshman film, because in “Old”, the final reveal falls flat, offering more of a head-slapping “oh boy.” I can’t even recommend a matinee or paid stream of this one. Save the nearly two hours for something better – perhaps appreciating life. “Old” earns a D+.