Movies

Movie Review: Old

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Love him or hate him, M. Night Shyamalan is back.  

The controversial filmmaker who thrives on sinister twists returns with a high concept mystery, rapidly aging people at a beach vacation.  One year older in a half hour; 48 years in one day!  Imagine starting off the day as a child and turning middle-aged the next day, speeding through life and being robbed of the intellectual, emotional and mental development of a human being, and a lifetime of milestone life events.

Parents Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) take their children, six-year old Trent (Nolan River) and 11-year old Maddox (Alexa Swinton) to a beach resort vacation as an attempt to give them one last family memory before they get divorced.  

At the resort, they are approached by the resort manager (Gustaf Hammarsten), telling them about a secret private beach for special guests.  They’re interested and taken to the dropoff point in the jungle by an affable van driver, none other than Shyamalan himself.  And not just a van driver, he’s making a major cameo here.

The family is joined by two other families, a nurse, Jarin (Ken Leung) and his psychologist wife, Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird); and a doctor, Charles (Rufus Sewell) with his youth-obsessed wife, Chrystal (Abbey Lee), their six-year old daughter, Kara, (Kylie Bailey), and her grandmother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant).  No sooner they arrive at the beach, a mysterious man, rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) shows up and a deceased body of a woman washes up ashore.  The body decomposes at an alarming rate, resulting in bone remains.

Puzzlement, prejudice, paranoia and panic set in, especially when people find out that there is no cell phone connection and no way to leave the beach.  Each time they try, they get massive head pressures, blacking out and winding up back on the sand.  Swimming to the other side or climbing up the rocks does not work either.  

They soon realize the connecting thread among them is that they have various kinds of illnesses in some of the family members, but they don’t know why they are trapped there.  The tropical paradise, with lush jungle, rocky walls and clear waters, become a secluded nightmare they can’t wake up from.  

The terror ratches up when the three kids grow up to be teenagers and young adults (Luca Faustino Rodriguez, Alex Wolff; Thomasin McKenzie; Mikaya Fisher, Eliza Scanlen) before everyone’s eyes.  Their tremendous growth spurts are clearly more noticeable than the aging of the adults and the scenes that follow lead to a disturbing consequence.  

People are shocked, terrified, divided, pointing fingers and fighting off one another, like in the survival of the fittest test.  It’s easy to root for the remaining survivors to realize what’s really important in life and find a way to escape back into the world.

The movie is more of a thriller than horror, mixed with hilarity, due to clunky dialogue, body horror, and the way it’s filmed.  The off-kilter shooting of the scenes, such as overhead, closeup of partial body parts, sights unseen, blurry images before coming into focus, create an unsettling ambiance of disorientation and dread.  One particular scene in the cave is creatively gruesome, although there’s an unintentional comedy aspect to it.

While not every stone is turned, the mystery of why certain people end up in that beach is uncovered and it has a surprisingly logical explanation within the confines of the storyline.  

If you’re into intriguing premises and willing to suspend disbelief, you may dig “Old.”  At the very least, the movie will linger in your mind, and you can rest assured you’ll walk out of the theater the same age as you walked in.

Copyright (c) 2021. Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic (rottentomatoes.com/critic/nathalia-aryani). She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

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