Release Date: 17/09/2021

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Old is based on the French-language Swiss graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. The story revolves around a couple, Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) who are on the verge of a divorce. Guy is a risk evaluator at an insurance company while Prisca has something to do with excavations.

Prisca also has a benign tumour that she doesn’t want Guy to overreact about as they make their way through the separation. Before they separate, the couple wants their kids Maddox and Trent to have one last vacation together and choose Anamika Resorts as their destination of choice.

The ethereal beauty of the place provides them with some much-needed bliss and happiness to start with but soon the manager of the resort suggests a visit to a nearby tropical heaven that turns out to be a horrifying detour.

Once in this tropical heaven, the couple along with some of the other families starts experiencing traumatizing and strange occurrences. Guy and Prisca’s kids aged 11 years and 6 years respectively suddenly start growing at an alarming rate. One of the other family’s grandmothers dies abruptly.

A young woman’s dead body is discovered that then degenerateness at an unimaginably fast rate. A racist schizophrenia-battling surgeon, Charles (Rufus Sewell), starts believing that the woman was killed by her black boyfriend who is known as Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre).

He even attacks the Mid-Sized Sedan who miraculously heals instantly. This further complicates the situation. Prisca’s tumour also grows at an alarming rate and the men are forced to operate on her on the beach.

As the incision is made to cut out the tumour, the people realize that unless they have their hands in the cut and keep it open, it will most definitely heal by itself.

All these occurrences are enough to prove to the people that in tropical heaven, time is moving much faster than it does in the real world. They calculate that if they spend 24 hours on the beach, it will amount to fifty years in real-time.

The biggest question however is why they were specifically abandoned on the beach and how they could escape from it.

Old is a film that boasts of an interesting plot and some extremely bizarre visual and thematic elements. Imagine two six-year-olds turning adults in a matter of hours and giving birth to a kid that doesn’t survive even a minute. Visualize a woman who suffers from chronic calcium deficiency suffering bone breakage and contortion that heals instantaneously but in the wrong ways.

Imagine a man being cut with a rusted blade and seeing tetanus spread through his body in a matter of seconds. Old in its rendition of these strange occurrences is at its strongest. While the oddity itself of these events and situations are enough to make someone cringe, the execution by M. Night Shyamalan was spot on to extract a gamut of emotions from the viewing audiences. I was particularly repelled by the scene where Prisca’s tumor is operated on. There was something about this scene that made me feel sick.

The next best thing about the film was the insatiable desire of the characters and the audiences to learn and understand exactly what was happening on the beach. Just like the Characters, I was dying to learn and understand how time was working differently on the beach, why the people were unable to make it out through the same way that they came in, and if there was any other way of making it out of the beach alive.

Also why these families were particularly put there and what purpose were they serving? The answers to these questions had to ensure the payback to the tension and the thrill that was built up through the narrative.

Despite having good actors essaying important characters and a director like M. Night Shyamalan at the helm, there are many sequences in Old where it feels as if the actors are reading outlines from pages of the script rather than enacting a certain character in an odd situation.

I also felt that there was an utter lack of urgency among the actors essaying the characters when they were pitted against some bizarre situations. One has to accept the film for what it is but even at that, there are things that are hard to digest. The Anamika Resort people provide the families with a lot of food taking into account the fact that the kids would be growing up and they would be needing a lot of food.

My question here is, doesn’t the time affect the packed food too resulting in it rotting over the course of a few minutes. How come the food is fresh when even a corpse has dilapidated to its bones?

There are other questions too like why the people feel disoriented while exiting the beach when they are able to enter it without any qualms. Who was Mid-Sized Sedan’s girlfriend and how did she die? How come the corals are untouched by the effects of the beach?

The final reveal of the men who are behind the catastrophe and what exactly was happening on the beach would leave many unsatisfied. For me, it was like those cases in Hollywood films where the characters and the situations were given impenetrable plot amours that were beyond questions.

Fancy terms and ambiguity were used to dodge basic questions that left the narrative hollow and questions unanswered. Even the characters involved in the film made it clear that they didn’t know a lot about what was happening on the island and this absolved them from answering basic and important questions that we would have liked to ask them as audiences. However by doing that M. Night Shyamalan made sure that there would be a large number of audiences who would ultimately walk out of the film dissatisfied and with questions.

The man must have faced budget constraints that made him shoot certain scenes in certain ways that I didn’t think worked for the given situation. With a bigger visual effects budget, he could have shown the transformations better.

There are also a lot of lapses of logic that Shyamalan tries to address through dialogues between characters and these sequences come across as pretentious and doctored to explain something that they are finding hard to put through visually. This further spoils the performances that come across as forced and amateurish.

Old had a fantastic concept to work with but the performances and the execution along with the poor writing and lack of realism spoiled the film to a great extent. Maybe Shyamalan needed to iron out many of the film’s glaring logical and plot inadequacies before he began shooting. This would have resulted in a far better film that would have captivated its audiences.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)     

Also read: Squid Game: Good, but over-hyped        

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