Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Based on Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy, Frederik Peters
Starring Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliott
The main reason behind watching any Shyamalan film post Signs is to see what the trick is behind the mystery. Even with his slow progression towards respectability starting from The Visit, then continuing through Split, no one is expecting the results of that classic trio of films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and the afore-mentioned Signs) that set him forever into the cinematic zeitgeist. As likeable as the writer director is, one cannot help but hope that his reach can once more exceed our grasp of a typical M. Night plot.
Old is the story of a family, led by Guy and Prisca (Bernal, Kreps) on a vacation in the midst of a family crisis or two. We know there is a medical issue and we know Prisca did not handle it very well. Their children, Maddox and Trent are 6 and 11, approximately. The resort seems to be ready for the family, from a ride to the airport to a welcome including drinks based on the profiles collected when they signed up for the trip. Trent makes friends with a boy who is living at the resort. This friendship including secret messages and the like, will be key to solving what comes next.
The resort manager arranges for the family to take a trip to a beach that is part of the island’s nature reserve. The driver (played by the director) gives them extra food and warns that they should not have brought their passports with them. When they arrive, the find that some people are already there and some will arrive shortly.
What follows is a mixture of wonder, flawed characterizations, faulty reasoning and inconsistent science. What is not mysterious is the fact that people age faster on this beach. It manifests in myriad ways. We also get a steady dose of maladies that some of the people suffered before they arrived on shore.
The acting does not rise above the script, which is spotty at best. Add to this some stylistic choices that a 2nd year film school student might avoid, for good reason. It’s interesting how someone of Shyamalan’s obvious talents have not honed into more skillful execution by now. If by no other aspect than luck, you’d figure he’d have secured a better script doctor or camera operator by now.
This film is not a horrible one, it’s just not that good. There are no performances that will resonate, as the constantly shifting variables give everyone a form of schizophrenia to the point of mild annoyance. If one likes any of the actors, it will disappoint for the fact that we have little to remember. For me, it will be the smile of Embeth Davidtz. Old needs more than that.
(** out of *****)