By John Hanlon
In his new drama Old, M. Night Shyamalan plays with the concept of time. Adapted from the graphic novel Sandcastle, the film follows a group of individuals who are stranded on a beach where people rapidly age.
Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps co-star as Guy and Prisca, a married couple vacationing at a high-end resort with their children. The couple plans to separate but are trying to hide their marital difficulties from their two children, Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton). When the resort manager offers the family an opportunity to visit a desolate seemingly exclusive beach, the parents jump at the opportunity.
The family, however, isn’t alone at the beach. Nor at they safe there as Trent soon finds a body on the beach, leading to the revelation that there’s something unique about the beach.
Director M. Night Shyamalan sets the stage of the story well, establishing the main characters before isolating them on the desolate beach. His confidence behind the camera is evident as he moves the camera around the characters casually, keeping the viewer off-balance by seldom choosing obvious shots and never letting the viewer know everything that's happening.
At times, however, he seems more interested in the next revelation on the beach than he is in telling a strong story. There are a number of times when the characters run from place to place on the beach to see the newest thing that’s happened: a body’s decomposed, an older character’s getting sick etc. That being said, these characters aren’t dumb: in fact, they eventually start putting pieces of the puzzle together (and even find some connections amongst them).
The feature does have a few solid twists along the way but there are also some moments and events that feel forced in, as if Shyamalan wanted to pack his story with different twists, rather than focus on the characters.
Even though some elements of the feature don’t work as well as they should, Shyamalan has crafted an intriguing mystery here and the director is more than willing to try new things. Even when he falters, Shymalan has a way of making mistakes here that are interesting to watch.
Although the actors playing their children change throughout the film, García Bernal and Krieps do a strong job leading the cast and grounding their relationship in reality. Some of their dialogue feels a little over-the-top (“You’re always thinking about the future. It makes me feel not-seen,” Krieps’ character tells her husband early on) but their marriage – and the shape of their future – really add a layer of depth to the characters as they struggle to figure out how to move forward.
Old likely won’t rank as one of Shyamalan’s best features but it shows the director growing and really showcasing his talents in a unique way. The twist here -- and Shyamalan's known for his best ones -- is a solid one, letting to a satisfying conclusion to an intriguing but sometimes uneven mystery.
Old is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD. It can be purchased by clicking here.