Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 48 minutes, Director – M. Night Shyamalan
A group of holidaymakers find themselves trapped on a beach which causes them to age rapidly.
The trailers for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest gave the impression that it could be very hit or miss. Something highly creepy and unsettling, or where the concept is pushed too far making for an overambitious watch. In actual fact the released product is something in-between the two. Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle, the film sees a group of holidaymakers escape the confines of the luxury resort that they’re staying at to spend the day on a secluded beach. However, it appears that once on the beach there’s no way of leaving – instead the characters find themselves trapped in the fearful state of rapid aging, seemingly caused by their new permanent environment.
While the discovery of a dead body creates some mystery the real kickstart to the fear and panic that the group experiences is the dramatic change in central couple Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca’s (Vicky Krieps) children, Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton) – seemingly having aged by 5 or 6 years and taking the form of Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie respectively. While this family unit forms the core of the film, we see most of the events through, or close to, their eyes, there’s no escaping the inevitable changes that everyone else on the beach faces. There’s little room for comment on aging and what, for some people, comes with it. There are mentions and slight moments hinting at dementia or physical or sensory debilitations, however there’s not much else. In fact, much of the film appears to be just what it shows on the surface level as the group of largely strangers attempt to escape the beach and find help, despite what appears to be an unnatural force keeping them there.
Despite the area being relatively small there’s still plenty of space for characters to wander off and be forgotten about while others demonstrate rising tensions. Particularly the untrusting form of Rufus Sewell’s doctor Charles, creating little developed racial tensions with famous rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre). It feels like there’s so much that Shyamalan wants to show that instead of a properly flowing plot he instead creates patches of ideas, like dramatic sketches with increasing and narrative progressing stakes and effects on the characters who appear in them. While the ideas and concept are certainly interesting and the film itself is largely watchable there’s something that doesn’t always sit right in terms of the execution. A toss-up between horror-thriller and tense mystery is in place and there’s a constant battle throughout the film for which one takes control. Especially when characters or eventual deaths are forgotten about and barely referenced again.
Again, the general idea of many points is good. It creates something that keeps you in place, even if you aren’t always properly engaged with the film as a whole. This is particularly in the case of the first half of the film where for the most part the majority of ideas appear to still be saying ‘look at how weird this is’ continuing to point out the obvious; that these characters are aging rapidly. In such a busy film it almost feels like a bit of a waste and begins to form an unsatisfying sense around what’s unfolding, or is still to unfold.
This is certainly a film where a lot surfaces to mind after having seen it. For the time that it’s on, however, there is something watchable there. You may notice some issues, but there are certainly some good ideas present that make for something decent for the time that it’s on. And, in fact, it does gradually get better as it goes on, mostly when out of the fairly lengthy build-up. But, once out of there Old presents something with some eerie moments and style. It helps to capture a specific mood that does help to push things along and keep your intrigue within certain elements that are at play over the course of the feature. It may not be a perfect film, and it’ll likely divide audiences, but at least you don’t feel yourself aging while watching it!
Far from perfect, there are some clunky moments within Old. However, as it goes on, there are some interesting ideas and moments to be found within its collection, making for an overall watchable experience for the course of the run-time.