Old: Movie Review

Old is a 2021 film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, based on a graphic novel by Frederik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Lévy entitled Sandcastle. What follows is a spoiler-free review because I believe that everyone should watch this movie without knowing anything about it in order to enjoy it fully.

I had fun watching Old. There’s a mystery to unravel, there are many well-constructed scenes, some interesting dialogues, some lovely characters (albeit sometimes too bidimensional). And now that I think about it, it’s easy to identify various fairly obvious shortcomings and flaws.

Let me start from the first five minutes of the plot. A family consisting of a father (Gael García Bernal), mother (Vicky Krieps) and two children aged six and ten (Nolan River and Alexa Swinton) go on a vacation to a luxury resort on a remote island in the Pacific. However, things between the two parents are not going very well, and she also seems to have a serious health problem. The second day, they decide to go to a paradisiacal beach where they meet other guests of the residence. And here I stop! It goes without saying that something very strange happens on that beach, in full Shyamalan style.

What did I like about Old? Shyamalan’s direction is perfect in conveying anxiety right from the start with a camera that moves sinuously, with lots of Dutch angles (shots with oblique angles), and with many 360 degrees movements around the actors as if to disorient the viewer. I really enjoyed the director’s cameo in which he basically is… the director of a film inside the film, he even physically takes the actors to the set by driving the minibus to the beach! And I couldn’t help but notice the color blue which is present in so many key scenes, like the color red was everywhere in The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Village (2004). In short, the director has taken care of many details as usual, although he didn’t use that same care on many other things, unfortunately.

In fact, I enjoyed various dialogues from the film. The emotions/colors metaphor works well: children have few emotions but they’re all strong, and adults have more but they decrease in intensity. And it’s sweet to think of a couple growing old together because they love each other and they can forget and forgive their small disagreements of the past.

But I’ve mentioned flaws, so let me talk about those briefly. I noticed a continuity problem in the central part of the film where some characters’ actions seemed disconnected from both their previous actions and the overall context. As a result, I found some scenes not very credible, or at least out of place. Precisely for this problem, I think that some characters in the film are a bit weak, out of all those played by Aaron Pierre, Abbey Lee and Eliza Scanlen.

Another thing that I didn’t like is that the mystery is solved by an explanation thrown at the viewer at random at about two thirds of the film. I would’ve preferred to have no explanation rather than something pulled out of nowhere (and the explanation seems to be taken directly from the episode Dod Kalm of the second season of The X-Files!). The problem of wanting to explain everything to the viewers results in unnatural-sounding dialogues of the characters and it’s noticeable in a lot of scenes, especially in the finale.

For the rest, as mentioned, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the movie. You should always expect some off-key dialogues and some basic characterization in a Shyamalan movie, but I consider Old an interesting film despite its fair share of flaws. It won’t change anyone’s mind about Puducherry’s director: if you’re a fan of his work, you’ll continue to be one, and if you are not… you won’t become one. Still, I would recommend watching the movie. Ciao!

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