OLD movie still M. Night Shyamalan

OLD: Shyamalan’s Unrealized Potential

Whenever you find yourself on a summer holiday at a beautiful, exotic location, either a beach or a swimming pool might be the destination of choice to sit back, relax, and enjoy some sunshine. Beaches are seldom usually associated with anything horrifying, unless say there was a killer shark lurking in nearby waters. But, what if a beach that you were staying on was somehow making you age at a rapid rate? This intriguing concept of OLD (2021) seems like a match made in heaven in for a director famed for twisty thriller/horror films like M. Night Shyamalan. The reality of the situation, is that this film is the definition of wasted potential.

Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) along with their children Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie) are arriving at a picturesque resort that seems the most idyllic hotel for a family get away. However, there’s a mutual acknowledgement between the two parents that their marriage is heading for divorce. Upon the suggestion of a hotel manager, the family and a few other groups of guests, are recommended what seems to be the perfect beach to spend a day. However, when the various hotel guests arrive, they soon realize that by spending a significant amount of time beach is causing all of them to rapidly age.

OLD movie poster M. Night Shyamalan

Shyamalan’s screenplays usually are based his own material, however in this instance, OLD is adapted from the novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. Regardless of its quality and whether it is his own idea or adapted from elsewhere, one thing is definitely true about every film that has M. Night Shyamalan’s name on it, is that of his films they have interesting concepts. While some have been extremely masterfully directed films with surprises and twists that are up there with the best of them. Others have been laughable, completely devoid of charisma, charm and indeed entertainment. In the case of OLD, it’s far from the worst film in his career, but it is disappointing when you know what he is capable of as a director.

When you have assembled a cast that packed with talented actors who have proven their caliber in previous films, you’d expect some of them to be able to turn in quality performances. While most of the cast try their best, with Krieps and McKenzie arguably the best of the bunch, they are done a disservice as the script for OLD is too often filled with cheesy and poorly-written dialogue. As such, it seriously cheapens the drama and the serious nature of the situation that these characters find themselves in. What is supposed to be this tense and serious drama is practically turned into a comedy (especially when it comes to a certain scene in a dark cave), but this is definitely not what the filmmakers intended. It also definitely doesn’t help when one of the characters is a rapper whose name is Mid-Sized Sedan (yes you did read that right).

While all of the cheesy dialogue and unintentionally hilarious moments are more than enough to take you out of the film, to give credit where it’s due, the nature and mystery of the premise that’s presented here maintains the intrigue right throughout OLD’s 109-minute run time. Perhaps due to the nature of this event, the camerawork is very haphazard, which may well either further irritate or enhance the unintentional comedy of the story. Yet through all of this, there’s a constant, unbreakable need for answers to the mystery you’re watching. Shyamalan closed about the third act here, by the time the credits start to roll, due to the sloppiness of the filmmaking on display, the resulting payoff is more than likely to be deeply unsatisfying.

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