Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is a divisive figure. Some people love his movies while others think they’re rubbish. I must admit that I love THE SIXTH SENSE, which came out in 1999, but with each new film he does, I find myself re-evaluating my opinion of his talent. I was not a fan of his last film, GLASS. With his latest film, OLD, opinion will no doubt be divided again.
OLD opens with the Cappa family – father Guy (Gael García Bernal, IT MUST BE HEAVEN; THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER; COCO; NERUDA), mother Prisca (Vicky Krieps, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB; PHANTOM THREAD), 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton, TV’s BILLIONS) and 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) – on their way to a luxury tropical resort that Prisca found on the Internet. This is more than just a family holiday though. It will be their last holiday together as Guy and Prisca, we learn, are going to split up when they get home. We also learn that Prisca has a stomach tumour but her condition is stable. And we learn that Guy is an actuary while Prisca works as a museum curator. Clearly, all this background information is going to be important later on. At the resort’s restaurant, we then get to meet some of the other guests – nurse Jarin (Ken Leung, (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS; TV’s LOST) and his wife, epileptic psychologist Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird, DENIAL), doctor Charles (Rufus Sewell, THE FATHER; JUDY; HERCULES), his wife, the calcium-deficient Chrystal (Abbey Lee, OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY; TV’s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY), and their 6-year-old daughter, Kara (Kyle Bailey), among others. To make their visit special, the manager recommends that the Cappas day trip to a secluded beach located not far from the resort. The family agrees and they board the resort’s minivan for what they think will be a quiet day of sun and surf. However, not long after they arrive, so do Charles and his family, and Jarin and Patricia. To everyone’s bigger surprise, another hotel guest, rapper Mid-Size Sedan (Aaron Pierre, TV’s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY) is already there. Mid-Size, we learn, has haemophilia and he’s been on the beach all night waiting for a friend to return from swimming. It doesn’t take long for strange things to start happening to the group. Time has sped up and they all start to age very quickly, which exacerbates each person’s underlying medical condition. Though they try to make their way back to the road or swim to another point on the shore, escape is seemingly impossible. Some supernatural force is keeping them there.
If OLD sounds like a cross between LOST and an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, you wouldn’t be too far off. That’s not the problem with this film though. It’s the clunky dialogue, the wooden performances and some huge plot holes that defy all logic and reason. To give you an example of the first two, here’s how one scene goes:
Patricia is on the ground of the restaurant having an epileptic seizure.
Jarin: Is there a doctor here?
Charles: I’m a doctor.
Jarin: I’m a nurse. My name is Jarin.
Charles gives a cursory glance at Patricia, who by now has passed out.
Charles: She’ll be okay.
Charles gets up and walks away.
In another exchange, Guy tells the group, “I’m an actuary. Statistically, this shouldn’t be happening.”
Well, it is, so deal it instead of talking about it. Shyamalan is not noted for writing good dialogue but this is on a whole different level to what we’ve seen him do before. Clearly, he’s trying to make a point with so much emphasis placed on names and occupations but I’m not sure what that point was.
If you’re able to put that aside and concentrate on the story, there’s actually something there worth pondering. OLD is based on a French-language Swiss graphic novel called Sandcastle and the story’s reveal, when it finally gets there, is an interesting one. On the plus side, the casting for the child-to-adult characters was impeccable. Four actors each were used for Trent and Maddox, and three for Kara, and there is a clear visual connection between them that makes their transitions from child to teen to adult very believable.
That, though, was not enough for me and I thought the movie was complete tosh. My colleagues, however, were more forgiving with one going as far as saying that he liked it.
OLD opened yesterday (July 29th) in Hong Kong.
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