I’m going to say it. This would have made for a better short film. Two hours is too long. Trim off the fat, tighten the story line, have fewer characters and make this a low budget thrill fest. Sigh. If you enjoyed the twist at the end of THE SIXTH SENSE then you might, just MIGHT find digesting M. Night Shyamalan’s OLD as something palatable. I on the other hand felt like I endured a two hour whiplash equivalent to the time of when I watched Darren Aronofsky's MOTHER! I mean I clenched my jaw and thighs while watching Jennifer Lawerence’s character give everything she had to her husband’s work. Oh that movie had so much suffering.
In fact, OLD is about suffering. Suffering on a time scale of losing seconds, minutes, hours to the equivalent of one’s lifespan in the measurement of a day. Of course when Rufus Sewell’s character keeps asking what’s the name of that movie with Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson continuously throughout the film, while everyones’ lives are rapidly aging kept me on the edge of my seat, asking internally WHAT IS THAT NAME OF THAT MOVIE? So, as I’m writing this, I’m Googling for an answer. Is it awkward I was more intrigued on figuring out that answer versus why everyone was aging on a beautiful island of paradise? I live in 2021, it’s the simple things that matter at this point. I'm all about the journey and not the destination.
Visually, OLD has some great framing that inspires intrigue and strangeness in a way that makes me ponder the creativity and mind of a five year old, other than that, ummm the dialogue feels like I’m watching a Shakespearean play without any eloquent language. Given the confines of the situation though, who has time to belt out a soliloquy of one’s vulnerabilities of a life briefly lived, because half the time you’re trying to figure out why is this all happening. Clearly, paradise isn't all it's cracked up to be. There's something lurking beneath the facade of firm beautiful skin. Did I mention there’s a character named Mid- Sized Sedan? And my one critique on this interesting character is why didn’t he age like the rest of the group? Was that a goof?
Take a deep breathe and release….
Another redeeming quality of this film was Alex Wolf’s performance. His acting like a young kid who had little to no concept of sex, becomes a dad, falls in love, loses his family, while watching his mom and dad slowly succumb to old age while unraveling the mystery behind it all. What a role! The man has decent acting skills and a range so absorbing and fascinating, I’m ready to watch his next film. With HEREDITARY, PIG, and OLD, all under his belt, it certainly says some things about his peculiar interest in caliber of characters.
Once OLD sprints into the third act, there is a profound element, in the realm of the “why” to all of this happening and yet still feels really fucked up. Sigh, truth hurts. Sometimes. All the time. Also in the same vein it feels like a very elaborate conclusion to the likes of a TWILIGHT ZONE episode, but with that is a compliment, because there is a form of originality, creativity, that thinks outside of the box, which is a prized commodity and refreshing as it’s not another redundant reboot or a Marvel movie. Thank, God. Also did I mention OLD is actually an adaptation of the graphic novel, Sandcastle" written by Pierre Oscar Lévy? OK so I haven't read it and cannot attest to how faithful it is to the source material, but I do know there is a sandcastle in OLD, and that's pretty much the "a-ha!" scene that wraps the ending up in a twisted reveal. M Night Shyamalan loves twisted reveals. And it will make you cock you're head to the side with a dumbfounded expression. In fact, I'm pretty sure my mouth gasped and drool came out.
Overall at the end of the day, OLD shines a light on how we spend our lives aging in slow motion where the thing that slowly kills us is rejection, resentment, regrets, fear, low self esteem, and for most of us some health ailment whether mentally or physically, it destroys us. Death is the endgame one way or another. As I quote Jeremy Messersmith’s incredibly poignant song, “ A Boy, a Girl, and a Graveyard” ‘Life’s a game we’re meant to lose’ because it is in whatever timespan we’re given and the time we’re given is a gift, a gift we’re able to decide what we do with despite whatever circumstance. So there, there’s heart in this crazy madness. If anything I feel like OLD should be given a cult classic emblem. This film would make for an insane exploitative low budget short, shot on actual film with horrible dubbing and a jittery flicker of dirt in every frame, then maybe I’d treasure it a bit more than this polished turd. I have strong love for low budget filmmaking. Experience it if you’re curious and if not go watch whatever Marvel movie is playing.