Old Review: (Growing) Old is a Huge Pain


M. Night Shyamalan has made a career out of mystery and suspense. While his career trajectory can be visualized in roller coaster form, Shyamalan isn’t afraid to push his cinematic ideas onto people — for better or worse. Much of the criticism of Shyamalan is that his films, particularly his suspenseful movies, feature some sort of story twists. With Old, not much has changed. Shyamalan structures Old‘s story around multiple mysteries, creating a slow storytelling environment. As each layer of the story is peeled away, a brand new theme is introduced into the movie. “Its themes of aging had me thinking about my parents and children and how quickly it all goes by,” he said.

So much of the film plays with the idea of people growing older. For parents, it teaches them to enjoy the time they have with their children before it’s too late. For kids, it teaches them to respect their elders and love their parents. At the same time, it also showcases the struggles of growing old — having dementia, going blind or deaf, or feeling helpless. He expands Pierre Oscar Lévy’s story to a larger degree here but with far less effectiveness.

Once again, M. Night Shyamalan is betting his film on the likeability of the twist.

Much of the themes that Shyamalan introduces are at a pace that’s similar to the rate of aging in Old. That is to say, it’s fast. All of this feels as if he’s rushing to get to his infamous twists. In the graphic novel that the movie is based on, writer Pierre Oscar Lévy ended the novel on an ambiguous note. Speaking with CBR, artist Frederik Peeters said, “originally, Pierre Oscar had written an ending, a resolution, a final twist, but we finally decided it was useless, and would have destroyed the frightening dimension of the book. So we had to find the only frontal and implacable way to replace the first ending.”

Once again, M. Night Shyamalan is betting his film on the likeability of the twist. This is all while adding a wholly different theme that doesn’t fit with the movie’s central theme of mortality. 

Credit where credit is due, though. Old is not dull. It definitely isn’t as engaging as it should have been, but boring is not what you can call this film. As the film progresses, there’s a feeling of dread for these characters. Much of that is due to the undeniable chemistry between the entire cast. Also, the visual language of the movie is just so creepy and haunting. 

Overall, Old is a bloated film that tries to be much more than the sum of its parts. Pierre Oscar Lévy’s Sandcastle is a simple but effective story about the inevitability of death. Yet, like in typical Shyamalan fashion, he tries to insert more complex ideas into the plot, which muddles the core reason why the source material was popular to begin with. He ruined The Last Airbender, and he may have ruined Sandcastle. Of course, it depends solely on your views of the twist.

Rating: 2.5/5 atoms

Old hits theaters on July 23rd.

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