The dilemma with M. Night Shyamalan is that he has built his entire directing career around the twist ending. From the moment a new trailer is released for any one of his films, fans are already on the case trying to decipher what the big twist could be. It’s the same while watching the movie. As much as I want to just sit and watch the story unfold on its own, there’s a little voice in the back of my mind running through all the twist possibilities. With his latest film Old, the twist is at the forefront of the film. Unfortunately that means it often takes precedence over things like story and character development, resulting in a film that has some great moments here and there but lacks any real substance.


Guy (Gael García Bernal), his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps), and their two young children, 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) and 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton), are on a family vacation at an all-inclusive resort when they learn from the resort manager about a secret secluded beach that would be absolutely perfect for them. Things almost immediately seem off as they are joined by another family in the drive to the not-so-secret beach. Their concerns are momentarily laxed when they first arrive at an absolute pristine vista, but their relaxation soon turns to terror when they realize that something is not quite right when 6-year-old Trent suddenly turns into a teenager and then young adult right before their very eyes. It turns out everyone is aging rapidly and when years pass in only a matter of hours, they’ll have to quickly find a way off the beach if they’re to survive from dying of old age.


Time is the theme of Old and the film explores some interesting ideas around the concept. I’m sure most of us have been asked the question, “If this was your last day on Earth, how would you spend your time?” The film somewhat presents this idea as if it were taken from an episode of The Twilight Zone. These characters are literally aging a lifetime over the course of a day. There’s a vague theme about living in the present. Guy himself is a risk assessor so he spends his days worrying about the future while Prisca is a museum curator of artifacts so hers is spent in the past. Their relationship isn’t great to begin with, and the idea of living in the present when days of your life go by in seconds is an interesting concept. Old only scratches the surface of this theme, however, and doesn’t really say much about it other than the horrifying reality that they’re going to die if they don’t get off the beach.


That being said, there are some truly terrifying moments in Old. The idea of rapidly aging is scary in its own right but the film gets creative with it. Wounds heal almost instantaneously, which might sound cool until you break a bone and you don’t have any time to make sure it’s properly set. Same goes for infections. What might take weeks to set in happens in minutes. The implications of rapid aging are pretty horrifying and Old does a good job at tapping into that fear when it counts.


While Old succeeds in delivering some horrifying imagery, it struggles in telling a competent story. Frankly it gives little reason to care for any of these characters, who have nothing more than cookie-cutter characteristics. The kids are the most interesting of them since they’re affected by the rapid aging in the most visible manner. Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie play the older versions of Trent and Maddox, and they deliver a decent enough performance given the fact that they’re playing adults with the minds of a six and 11 year old, although there are some definite leniencies given to that regard. It’s best to try and not think too hard about the logistics of everything, because the film tends to go with whatever is best suited for the moment.


The more you think about Old, the less sense it makes so it’s best to just let the waves take you on its journey rather than fight the current. It’s an entertaining film that delivers some solid scares and has an interesting concept, but struggles with its characters and story. If you’re a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, you’ll likely end up leaving pleased, but if not, Old won’t be turning anyone’s mind.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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