M. Night Shyamalan returns to cinemas with Old (2021), and it is definitely not for everyone. Fans of Shyamalan’s work will find some things familiar, some things out of character, and a twist exactly where one may expect. Nonetheless, Old is a movie that doesn’t make it easy for one to decide how they feel about it. It is entertaining in ways both intended by the filmmaker, and in some that feel accidental. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the lines of dialogue…but I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to be laughing. In the end, I feel more positive than negative towards the film.
Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and Guy (Gael García Bernal) take their family on a luxury island vacation. They are given a tip about a secluded beach – and sent along with six others – who all join an existing couple on this beach. It’s not long before signs of trouble start to show, leaving everyone questioning what to do next.
When you look at this incredibly talented cast delivering dialogue in ways that feels wrong rather than intentional, you have to assume it’s at the discretion of the director. There are a few characters who have quirks that really demonstrate exactly what I am talking about. Jarin (Ken Leung) informs people of his name multiple times. Not throughout the film, but during introductions. Guy knows arbitrary statistics that he attributes to selling insurance – but they are odd stats, and very specific to have just memorized all of them. Trent (at any age) asks people what their jobs are in a way that feels less like a precocious child, but is never clarified. While some of these quirks may relate back to the story or the character, others just feel like questionable choices à la The Happening (2008), which is arguably Shyamalan’s worst film.
Despite these laughable moments, the premise of Old is very compelling. Without spoiling the end of the film, this beach they arrive on has some odd properties that make the children age noticeably, but even the adults start to show signs as well. Time moves differently, and this is captivating in and of itself. The metaphors and the deeper meaning of this film aren’t hard to pick up on, which is why the Shyamalan trademark twist will make or break the movie for the viewer. I found it interesting, but I do think it is lacking further commentary to make it really land with audiences. It’s just kind of there at the end…and, while it has some things to say, it mostly feels superficial.
I didn’t dislike Old, but it’s certainly not one of Shyamalan’s masterpieces. I am a big advocate for the entire Unbreakable trilogy, and The Sixth Sense is near perfect. The truth is, I would rather have a movie like this one from Shyamalan than a lot of the copy and paste movies we get so often. Even if what he is saying and how he chooses to say it doesn’t totally work, at least it is interesting to dissect. Old gets a Decent Watch rating.