I want to preface what I am about to say here by saying that I am normally the person in a conversation that will defend M. Night Shyamalan as a filmmaker. Aside from The Last Airbender and After Death, I have enjoyed all of his films and have even found merit films like Lady In The Water and The Happening that some seem to despise. That being said, I found Old to be his worst film to date. It is a film that has a brilliant premise but sadly is badly executed.
The premise to Old is simple. Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) are a married couple who decide to take their children on one last holiday before they divorce. Once arriving on the island paradise, a visit is suggested to a beautiful, secluded cove and they taken there by the resort staff alongside another married couple, surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell), his trophy wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and their daughter. The trip to the cove quickly takes a turn for the worst when a body washes up which Charles instantly assumes is the work of the mysterious Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) who can’t stop his nose from bleeding.
Without giving anything away, the premise of Old and the big reveal of why it is happening is pretty amazing. Old could have turned out to be an absolute masterpiece. But for many reasons, Old ends up becoming seriously flawed. From unnatural, over-written dialogue through to some really bad acting performances, combined it feels like something has gone horribly wrong with the filmmaking process somewhere along the way.
Then there is the fact that even though the characters in Old are aging at an alarming rate, nobody’s hair, beards, body hair or fingernails ever seem to become out of control despite the fact that it is unlikely that anybody would have packed grooming products to go on what was just supposed to be a picnic. Like how time travel often does in movies, the premise of what is supposed to be happening here trips itself up on a number of levels throughout the film. It also feels like that the events happening in the film happen all too quickly. A film like this does need to have a body count, but not people dropping like flies. Perhaps the best way to have handled the subject would have been in a real-time drama series, like 24, where one hour of television could have shown what happened to that character in that hour (ie eight years) of their life.
The worst possible crime here, for me though, is the badly written dialogue. While it fair to understand that Trent’s dialogue is different due to the fact his character is autistic, it doesn’t make sense as to why the dialogue of characters like Prisca also speak in such a disjointed and over-explanatory way. Add that to the fact that some of the acting here, and I am not talking about the young cast members, makes The Young And The Restless seem Oscar-worthy – the result is you have a lot of characters that become hard for the audience to warm to.
The saddest part about Old is that it only grabs the attention of the audience towards the finale. Once the big reveal happens, the film finally becomes interesting. However, it is all too little too late. I dare say, that if the screening I attended was anything to go by, some people may have already left the cinema.
I get a strong feeling that in years to come, Old will be shown at film schools as a good example of ‘great idea but poor execution.’ Although the concept of the film may be a stroke of genius, the many flaws of Old unfortunately means that it is not a film that is a pleasure to watch. This seems even more of a crime when you know that when he is at the top of his game, M. Night Shyamalan is one of Hollywood’s best filmmakers.