Film Review: “Old” (2021)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We all want to travel to exotic places that give us the journey of a lifetime. Warm memories to keep us warm in winter. Moments of joy we can look forward to remembering as we get older. But what if at some point something strange happens and our entire life shrinks in a single day? A day that might be our last one?

Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) expect to have their last vacation as a family before sharing the important news to their children, Maddox and Trent. The place they travel to is the isolated Anamika Resort, which is absolutely stunning. Hoping to spend some memorable times, the couple gets an exclusive invitation from the resort manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) to spend time at an isolated beach surrounded by glowing rocks. Upon arrival, strange things begin to happen, and one of them, shockingly, begins to age at a rapidly scary pace, literally threatening to see their entire life end within one day.

One of the catchiest phrases in the film is “welcome to our version of paradise”, by the resort manager when he greets new guests. It seems not everybody gets the exclusive invitation to the secret beach. However, along with Prisca, Guy and their children, they are being accompanied by Charles (Rufus Sewell), his wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant) and daughter Kara, as well as Jarin (Ken Leung) and his wife Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird). They all get a rare chance to experience what, sadly, will turn into a nightmare of fast-track ageing with no sign of slowing down.

Based on the graphic novel “Sandcastle” by Pierre-Oscar Levy, and screenplay written by the director M. Night Shyamalan, the film delivers a creepy and surreal atmosphere, mostly around character study. Shyamalan casts himself too, as a prominent Hotel Van Driver, who sends guests on their way to the nightmarish quest. With an elegant filmmaking style and excellent camera work, the film allows the actors to play their part as they begin to age minute by minute turning their life into a living hell. Frankly, it’s shot so realistically, certain scenes are unbearable to watch.

All the characters that enter the beach are exquisite and unique. We realize that they all have their own purpose to serve. But not revealing much, it’s something I will leave for you to learn about. What works about the film is that it does not give much information on why they age, but rather focuses on nature that literally does its work the best. The final twist is surprising and something hard to guess. As for the written lines, they could be better, of course. But to picture ourselves in place of Shyamalan’s characters, it is hard to imagine what kind of discussion we would have apart from being freaked out.

In sum, “Old” is a decent and much-needed film to see this year. It provides an interesting perspective on life within a short amount of time, whether you want it or not, you will think about it. As life shrinks for everyone involved, there are fatalities too that will raise more questions than answers. Overall, it’s an intelligent piece of filmmaking that will be, sadly, appreciated only by the most attentive and caring viewer. It is certainly not made for everyone. But once you’ve tuned yourself into it, you would realize it was not the wrong choice. It will absorb you and transport you right into the epicenter of the event where you, along with the heroes of the film, will try to escape a beach that has no intention of letting anyone go.  

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