‘Old’ Movie Review: M. Night Shyamalan at His Best

Old is another captivating M. Night Shyamalan movie. It’s the best of Shyamalan’s recent renaissance and even Shyamalan’s best since Unbreakable. Shyamalan adapted the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters, and directed Old in his own distinct way. 

M. Night Shyamalan's Old cast look at bones on the beach
L-R: Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Thomasin McKenzie, Rufus Sewell, Aaron Pierre, Vicky Krieps and Gael García Bernal | Universal Pictures

‘Old’ is not old hat 

Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) take their kids, Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton) on a tropical vacation. When they go to a beach with other couples and families, they quickly find themselves in a hellish situation in paradise. First, a dead body washes up. Then, they find they can’t leave the beach without blacking out.

M. Night Shyamalan's 'Old' cast tries to handle a crisis
L-R: Aaron Pierre, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps | Universal Pictures

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But the real problem arises when Trent and Maddox show up significantly older. The beach is advancing everyone’s age exponentially every minute they remain there. Yet, the beach won’t let them leave either so the parents deal with aging, albeit less visibly, and watching their kids skip years of their childhoods. 

M. Night Shymalan reveals ‘Old’ piece by piece

Even though we already the premise, Old is full of surprises. Shyamalan is expertly judicious with the buildup. It begins with rapper Mid-size Sedan (Aaron Pierre) having nose bleeds. That’s strange, but not urgent yet. Strangers guess Trent and Maddox’s ages older because they’ve never met before. That’s how the kids first learn they look different. 

Old: Aaron Pierre with a bloody nose
Aaron Pierre | Universal Pictures

The first reveal of the change is that Prisca doesn’t recognize them. The longer the day goes on, Shyamalan uses more cinematographic tricks to tease the subsequent revelations. 

These characters are also intelligent adults so their first inclination is to seek medical attention. Of course there’s no cell phone reception. They also do the math and figure out exactly how fast they’re aging. As they all age, they face further problems that require immediate medical attention. Everyone has something that is impacted by rapid aging so they have plenty of decisions to make, in the impossible situation loaded with complications. 

There are some graphic scenes but Shyamalan mostly conveys them in the reactions on other people’s faces. He still shows some squirmy stuff, but Shyamalan has always been a master of creating suspense with what you don’t see. It’s rather cool to see him experiment with a balance between showing and hinting. 

M. Night Shyamalan’s favorite things

Most of Shyamalan’s movies deal with broken families, and often from the children’s perspective. Old opens with Prisca speculating on her children getting older one day, foreshadowing the fact that she literally has to face kids growing up too fast. 

Old: Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps hug Thomasin McKenzie and Luca Faustino Rodriguez
L-R: Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie, Gael García Bernal and Luca Faustino Rodriguez | Universal Pictures

The kids are genuinely curious about people. Trenton instantly befriends Idlib (Kailen Jude), the child of the resort owner. Together they inquire about other guests on the beach in the way that kids are just sincerely curious about people. Idlib elicits sympathy because he says he has no friends. One can imagine living on at a resort is too transient to make lasting friendships, but we also know the premise of this movie so we can assume the beach took all of poor Idlib’s friends away.

This is also Guy and Prisca’s last vacation before they tell their kids they’re separating, and that one of the parents has a medical condition. The kids even play with their dolls having a conflicted relationship, showing how the parents’ conflicts infects their innocence. 

Old stars Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff in a cave
Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff | Phobymo/Universal Pictures

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It’s also a classic enclosed setting with limited characters like The Village, The Visit or Split. Of course, Shyamalan gives himself a cameo. 

Some really edgy things happen that are spoilers. But the story confronts some sacred cows intensified by compressing lifespan to a day. There’s a body count to Old but just the idea of losing time is scarier than any monster. Time moves too fast at the normal rate so imagine losing even more. That alone makes Old the scariest movie of the summer, but it’s heartbreaking and terrifying at the same time.