Old Review

Ageing and all that comes with it is the frightful core of Old, the latest thriller from M. Night Shyamalan. Where the peace and calm of the beach should be is instead a supernatural family-based drama, as a tropical holiday turns the lives of these poor holidaymakers into a living nightmare. That is how so few will remember their holidays, but the promise of a break away from the agonies of the real world is sometimes overstated. What is a holiday, anyway? Why must it be on a tropical beach that has some supernatural density to it? Who knows. Old is both a nuanced understanding of its themes but also a disastrous parade of ideas that never come together as they should. Wildly pre-emptive situations occur with broad results for Shyamalan and his capable cast.  

That fleeting density of life is never touched on all that convincingly. Shyamalan shies away from those tender moments not because he is afraid to reveal the ambiguity fuelling it, but because there is little he can add that would strike more fear into an audience. In its undeveloped state, Old comes across as a mismatched nightmare with good intentions. Pockets of it have that embittered tone to them, especially when consciously assessing the meanings of living and the fleeting nature of survival. Those moments are solid but are not recurrent. They are glimmers of a wider idea that is never touched on.  Making peace with the past and accepting the future are all flutters and fragmented, and never broached with any real commitment. 

Frustrating that may be, Old is buoyed by good performances from heavy hitters of the next generation. Alex Wolff continues his strong, thriller and horror-oriented work with relative quality, despite the ambiguity that hangs over him and the rest of the cast. They do not linger for long, especially when the throes of Father Time take hold of each character. Changing the appearance and style of a character is an entertaining idea, but in practice, it is a difficulty Shyamalan can barely overcome. There is a sense throughout that Shyamalan has bitten off far more than he can chew. Watching him choke this down is entertainingly valiant, but also not as disturbing or aghast as it should be. His themes clash wildly with one another, and interestingly so.  

But it is the twist in the tale that provides little more than a flabbergasted, unceremonious end to Old. A sting should be found, some great awakening of surprising proportions. That is not evident, certainly not when the revelations are provided and the narrative takes hold. Shyamalan once again has experiences and ideas worth telling but is flummoxed by the range he has at his disposal. It is better to be panicked by options than struggling along with one tone in tow. For all the sloppy character arcs and uneventful final third, Old does inspire that brief note of calamitous disaster in the family unit. Shyamalan shies away from it too often, though. Like the elderly characters at the core of Old, the themes tire out and wither away all too quickly, leaving this admirable cast to pick up the pieces in a wasted final act.  

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